Fragrant Whiffs of Joy – A Book Review and Giveaway

Fragrant Whiffs of Joy

Fragrant Whiffs of Joy by Dorcas Smucker.  It’s book giveaway!

I have a friend who purchases brand new books to give as gifts. She reads the books first, being careful to open the pages only slightly so the reader will never know that the brand-new book she is given is not “brand new”.  I suppose I could do that with the book  Fragrant Whiffs of Joy that I received from Dorcas, but I can’t imagine reading an entire book with the spine only half-open. I’d get a kink in my neck for certain. Plus, I’ve decided I’ll keep it myself because I’ll want to be reading it again.

One thing I like about Dorcas Smucker’s writing is that she “shucks it down to the cob”.  She does so gently, but firmly. There’s no question about what she thinks or where she stands. There’s also no question that this Mennonite minister’s wife loves Jesus, her family, and her community.

She finds beauty in the ordinary days. All of us have days that are ordinary and we could find beauty in our ordinary days, if we stopped and paid attention. Too often we don’t take the time to really notice the beauty in ordinary days like Dorcas does.

Another thing that I like about her writing is that, as she deftly tells a tale, she uses intricacies that most folks don’t notice to help us see the kaleidoscope of colors that can be found in our days. By the end of her story, she neatly wraps up the pieces she left floundering out there and puts it all together.

I’ve learned a lot from Dorcas. I’ve learned a lot about relationships and being authentic. In the chapter “The Minister’s Wife,” she relates this conversation.

“Are you looking forward to the conference?” my sister asked.

“I guess so,” I said. “Except that nobody intimidates me like a Mennonite minister’s wife.”

“But,” she sputtered. “You’re a Mennonite Minister’s wife!”

“Not really,” I said, and then whispered. “I’m actually just pretending.”

I’ve learned that it’s okay to “shuck things down to the cob” (actually, I knew that already, but Dorcas helped enforce my belief that it is something we ought to do, Mennonite minister’s wife or not). I have been reminded that family dynamics in relationships don’t go away just because we grow up and live in other communities and it’s still important to claim our heritage and our family.

“You don’t have to live someone else’s life or write another culture’s story. You have a life, a history, a story of your own. It is worthy of telling, and no one else will ever tell it quite like you can. . . “

Dorcas’ book Fragrant Whiffs of Joy is just what the title says it is. Small, simple tantalizing whiffs about life, wherein we find the joy that is ours if we but seize it.

The book has thirty-six chapters, but you don’t have to read it as a book. You can read just one chapter at a time and wait for days until you pick it up again. It’s good coffee table material as well as bathroom enjoyment. If you’re like I was when my kids were small, going to the bathroom was a place to go to get some space – and some good reading. It still is!

Fragrant Whiffs of Joy

Dorcas writes about her family and her church. She writes about marriage and adoption.

“What happened next is unknown, but Steven remembers living on the streets, like so many other street children in Isumu, eating leftovers at open-air restaurants and watching the rivalry and violence among the older boys. Someone took him  Into Africa . . .  they couldn’t find any family, anywhere, for Steven.

So we adopted him  into ours.

Dorcas tells secrets that not many of us would tell. I enjoy her tales of her father and the way he sees life in slow motion. I delight in the prayer requests of her Sunday school class – from the hurt finger to the missing cat and the unborn calf.

Sometimes, when you read this book, you will howl with laughter. Other times, your heart will feel softened. And at times, if you’re a woman, you’ll find a tear in your eye.

If you’d like a chance to get a FREE copy of this book, enter your name in the drawing. If you are the fortunate winner, I’ll mail your copy – and it will arrive before December.

Christmas is coming, so if you’re looking for a gift for a special gal or woman in your life, consider getting one of her books. If you’d like to purchase a copy of this book, the cost is $14.00 ($12.00 plus $2.00 postage).

For copies of some of Dorcas’ other books, contact Dorcas at 31148 Substation Drive, Harrisburg, OR 97446.  Checks or PayPal accepted. (

Oh yes, don’t forget to sign up to be in the drawing!  Sign up in the comments below, private message me, or send me an email at  The drawing will take place on Friday, November 17, 2017.  You have until 11 PM to register to win!


A note from Gert: I am so sorry that my social media buttons are not working. If you want to share this post with a friend, you can tag your friend and click on this link.


Where Mary Found Her Strength

joy baby head

It is during the Christmas season when I think most of Mary.  I remember her, not because she was divine or perfect, but because she was faithful.  I know that, had I walked in her shoes, I would have wanted to be faithful.

I also know that, during difficult days and sleepless nights, I would have needed reminders that helped me remember this call on my life.  I would have needed the assurance that God had indeed called me for this.

For Mary, there were times she could look back and see the hand of God, even when things were hard and when they didn’t make sense.  Surely remembering those incidents carried her and gave  her strength to do what God asked of her.

Mary experienced three separate visits from three different persons.  Certainly these visits were a catalyst in giving her the power and strength to be the woman God called her to be!

No matter what ridicule she faced or pain when people rejected her Son, she could look back and trace God’s hand in her life.  She could recall these monumental visits and know that God was indeed real.  He had visited her!

joy birth egg shell globe

Gabriel’s visit to Mary, when Mary learns she has been chosen by God to do the virgin birth.

On what was probably a normal day for Mary, she was visited by Gabriel. That visit changed her life – and our world.

Gabriel told Mary exactly what was going to happen.  Just as Gabriel  said it would be; it was.

Mary would have a son, even though she was a virgin.  Mary agreed to do a virgin birth.

Joseph was a man of integrity; he and Mary maintained purity during her entire pregnancy. Mary and Joseph named the child Jesus as God told them to do.

They were obedient.  They were faithful.

joy other baby hands

Simeon’s visit in the temple, when Mary finds another confirmation and foreshadowing of future heartache.

Simeon’s visit gave Mary an insight into what would be happening in the future. In their first visit to the temple, Mary was holding her infant child when Simeon came into the temple.  He took the infant from Mary and thanked God for allowing him to see the Messiah.  It is Simeon who told Mary that one day, a sword would pierce through her own soul.

I am certain that, in the darkest day of Mary’s life as she stood at the cross, she remembered that conversation.  She had to know God’s hand was in this, for that sword was indeed piercing through her soul.

RUTH and Naomi black and white

Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, when Mary has a watershed moment that must have carried her through any doubt she might have faced.

Mary knew, before her baby’s birth, that He was indeed the Messiah. In her excitement after she learned that she would conceive of the Holy Ghost, she left her hometown of Nazareth and went to the hill country to visit Elizabeth.

For hadn’t Mary asked Gabriel how she, a virgin, could bear a child?  And had Gabriel not told Mary that nothing was impossible with God?!

Even now, the angel told her, her cousin Elizabeth (barren and beyond childbearing years) was in her sixth month of pregnancy.

Who else would better understand Mary than her own cousin who was also pregnant in a seemingly impossible happening?

When Mary walked into the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth,  it was Elizabeth who knew.  It was Elizabeth who confirmed to Mary that she was carrying the God-child.  Mary didn’t need to tell her, for Elizabeth knew!

“How can it be,” she said, “that the mother of my Lord would come to me?  For as soon as I heard your voice, the babe in my womb leaped for joy.”

If I had been Mary, I would have carried that treasure with me everywhere I went.  The baby leaped for joy because of the Messiah!

It wasn’t because of who Mary was; it was because of the Child in her womb.  That was confirmation enough that the Holy Ghost had come upon her, and that the power of the Highest had overshadowed her.

When neighbors or children ridiculed the Son born out of wedlock,  or when the crowds mocked her son, she still knew.  Mary did not question that her Son was the Messiah.  She knew in her heart.

Mary also knew because of the baby in Elizabeth’s womb.  That unborn child leaped for joy! Can you imagine the wonder Mary felt at the words of Elizabeth?!

I am certain that, if Mary ever doubted or wondered about this call, all she had to do was remember how that baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped for joy.

That was all the confirmation she needed.

What confirmations do you have of the work that God is doing in your life?!

It is Christmas.  What a wonderful time to celebrate your past experiences and the evidence of His work in you!  What better way to find renewed strength to continue your journey into the New Year!


Read these lyrics of a song telling about Mary’s experience.

Mary, a pretty young maiden
Is soon to be blessed with a Son
In the sight of the Lord she found favor
To be given the Promised One
Mary has now come to see me
For I’m also expecting a boy
And just as I hear Mary’s greeting
The child in my womb leaps for joy!

And he leaped for joy
From Jacob will come a scepter
A Son, to arise out of Israel
And he leaped for joy
Conceived from above by the Spirit of Love
The kingdom will rest on Him
The Shepherd of man is come as the Lamb
Who takes away all of our sins

And he leaped for joy
Mary, you’re blessed among women
And blessed is the child you bear
But why have I been so favored
That you should visit me here?
And blessed are you for believing
The Lord would give you His boy
At the pleasing sound of your greeting
The child in my womb leaped for joy!

And he leaped for joy
Arising from Judah an infinite ruler
Born in Bethlehem
And he leaped for joy
In strength He will stand
With love for all lands
And peace for the hearts of all men
Oh, he leaped for joy
The Father He’ll trust, the Serpent He’ll crush,
And He’ll reign as the Servant Son
Eternal I am, in meekness of man,
The promised Messiah is come

And he leaped for joy

To listen to the song Elizabeth’s Song,  go to this link.

Pinterest Where Mary Found Her Strength



Joy to the World in January

Christmas Dinner widows oval
Christmas cheer in January is a special treat when women come to our church and are served a Christmas dinner.  It is a traditional meal of turkey, real mashed potatoes with homemade turkey gravy, baked southern corn pudding, green beans, congealed salad, freshly baked homemade rolls, and apple or pumpkin pie capped with ice cream or cool whip.  Topped with a cup of coffee served in a cheerful Christmas mug, the evening is complete as we make introductions. listen to the Christmas story, and sing carols together.

For eleven Januaries, our church has hosted a Christmas dinner for widows and friends.  After the hustle of the Christmas season, winter settles in.  Temperatures drop, and women tend to want to stay indoors, watching weather forecasts and keeping pipes from freezing.  The days are long, and the nights are lonely.

The idea for this annual gathering was born when the John Glick family from Ohio shared during a service at church that they serve a dinner to widows in their community every year.  Many of us didn’t have space in our homes to host neighborhood widows, but we had space in our fellowship hall and room in our hearts.  With everyone working together, we had plenty of man- and womanpower.

Each year, there are women in the kitchen baking rolls while others fill water glasses or put salad on the tables.  Soon there will be folks at the door greeting the women as they arrive, and there is camaraderie as we work together, knowing that our guests are excited about coming to our table.  We’ll help them find their places at the table next to those of us who extended the invitation to them.

Sometimes what we are unable to do in our own homes can be done in a larger group.  There are many hands to help with the work.  Men set up tables and chairs and help provide transportation for women who don’t want to drive after dark.  Women sign up for food items to contribute, and youth and young adults serve the meal.

The holiday season can be a painful time for families who have lost loved ones.  Especially difficult is this season for people who have few or no family members living near them.  It’s hard to celebrate Christmas when there are no children who can come home, no grandchildren who can visit, and no spouse to share the cold, wintry days.

Our guests tell us that looking forward to this January meal is a highlight of their December. Indeed, by summer, they’re asking us if we’re going to do it again!  Most of them arrive at least thirty minutes early in anticipation, and our pastor is at the door to welcome them while others assist them with their coats.  Several have told us that they begin getting dressed in the morning for the 5 o’clock pm meal!  And yearly, there are faces absent from the previous year.  Sometimes it is because of illness.  And sometimes, it’s because, in Heaven, you’re not lonely anymore.

So what do you think?  Is this something you could do with your family or your church?

carolers welcome our guests

carolers welcome our guests


waiting for dinner

waiting for dinner

the tables are set

the tables are set

complete with name tags

complete with name tags


and the pies are ready

and the pies are ready