Footprints on the Ceiling, by Dorcas Smucker + author interview + GIVEAWAY!!

From lessons learned while riding on the back of a motorbike in Thailand to the importance of small, daily steps taken in pursuit of a goal, Dorcas Smucker shares vignettes of her daily life as a wife and mother, Mennonite woman, and writer in her latest book, Footprints on the Ceiling.

dorcas_cover

Dorcas writes a column for The Register-Guard in Eugene, Oregon, and this book is a collection of those columns, organized into thematic chapters, such as children, change, and travel. The columns are not reprinted in chronological order, so the ages of her children change throughout, but she always identifies how old they are to quickly place the reader in the story.

With self-deprecating humor and an eye for the deeper meaning in life’s events, Dorcas shares insights into parenting, living her faith, and appreciating the lessons to be learned in even the most mundane tasks or events. This particular collection includes several stories about getting older, mothering adult children, and the wisdom gained from personal experience, which resonated with me personally.

In terms of storytelling, her typical style is to begin with a story or concept, take a side jaunt or go back in time to tell a related story from its beginning, and then tie it all together before concluding with a wry observation, a discovery, or a connection to a spiritual lesson. She’s particularly talented at setting scenes with just enough detail about the characters and location to give readers a mental picture, but not so much information the story gets bogged down.

I enjoyed this window into her life so much I read more than half of it in one evening! One chapter I found particularly relevant to daily life but also to this time of year, is titled “Gifts Given Instead.” In it, Dorcas challenges herself to be thankful for gifts given, gifts withheld, and gifts given instead. The things we take for granted, the things we complain about not receiving, and the blessings we were given instead of what we wanted. Gratitude is so important all year long, but with Thanksgiving on the horizon, we are all more focused on our blessings.

dorcas_portrait
Dorcas Smucker, columnist and author

Dorcas has graciously provided a signed copy for me to give away as part of a blog tour. To be entered in the drawing for a free copy of Footprints on the Ceiling, in the comments, please share one of your blessings, whether it’s something you appreciate but often take for granted, an unanswered prayer, or what you received instead of what you wanted. I’ll select a winner on the Friday after Thanksgiving. (Because somehow, I think I’ll have time then!)

She blogs at Life in the Shoe: http://dorcassmucker.blogspot.com/ — if you visit, you can see all of the other bloggers posting their thoughts on her new book.

This book would make a delightful gift for mothers of all ages, as well as anyone who appreciates good storytelling. Footprints on the Ceiling is available for $15 per book, postage included.  You can mail a check to Dorcas Smucker, 31148 Substation Drive, Harrisburg, OR 97446.  US addresses only.  For international orders, email Dorcas at dorcassmucker@gmail.com.

But wait, there’s more! Dorcas agreed to a brief Q&A for Keri Recommends readers! Read on to get a sense of the humor and heart in this gentle writer’s voice, and find out how one letter can make all the difference! (Stick with us and you’ll get a tasty recipe, too!)

1. Tell me about how you got started as a columnist 14 years ago, and how your column has evolved over time.

I always say it was a “God thing,” because we all know if we were looking for a columnist for the Register-Guard, we would not look for a Mennonite minister’s wife from Harrisburg.  The RG has an occasional feature called Write On, where anyone can submit an essay and they might choose to print it.  I decided to try it, and to my joy they printed what I wrote, so I sent a copy to my mentor and friend, Ilva, who had always encouraged me to write for a bigger audience.  Ilva wrote to the paper and said they should feature this author more often.  The new features editor was looking for new material, and Ilva’s letter sparked his interest, and he called me up and asked me to write once a month.

It took a long time to get a feel for what my editor wanted and what people would connect with.  My editors over the years have given me lots of grace, and I’ve learned that I’m going to make the occasional misstep, and it’s ok.

2. Your columns are set in definite times and places, yet have a universal feel. How do you determine what life stories to include and which events or stories to exclude, especially given that your family is often involved?

Choosing what to write about is the hardest part of the process.  There might be plenty of things going on, but the reader is going to be asking, “So what?” So I am always aware that it needs to be more universal and meaningful than just, “Today I did laundry and fed the calves.”  Generally, I make a list of every possible topic and choose the one that’s most likely to produce 1200 words of usable material.

3. You grew up Amish and are now Mennonite, and you write about being mistaken for a nun. What is one thing you wish people understood about your faith?

I wish people understood how human we are, and how normal, whatever that is.  Also, that there’s quite a variety of flavors and outlooks and levels under the Amish/Mennonite umbrella.  That we might be “nice” but we are firm in our beliefs.  And that reading Amish novels is a terrible way to try to learn about the Amish.

4. What challenges you the most about being a writer? A mother? A human being?

I think it’s that journey of moving from lies and misconceptions to Truth, from confusion to clarity, from looking to people and things for purpose to looking to God, from selfishness to loving God and others.  It encompasses every role, every relationship, every job, every stage of life.  Maybe that’s kind of vague.  It’s always about the heart.  What am I REALLY looking for here?  What is really the truth?  What am I trying to control that is totally out of my control?  What is God wanting me to do here?

5. What’s your number one comfort food, and do you have a recipe to share?

I’ve been doing Trim Healthy Mama for a while, and I love to make an obscenely-high-fat shake for breakfast, with natural peanut butter, a big blob of cream cheese, almond milk, protein powder, some ice, and maybe even a bit of cream.  It makes it easy to swallow my vitamins, and satisfies me for hours.

I also like cheeseburger soup for winter suppers, and the family loves it as well.

Fry 1 lb. hamburger.  Set aside.
Stir-fry 2 T. butter
1 1/2 cups each grated carrots, chopped onion, and chopped celery
2 t. each dried parsley flakes and dried basil

Add to veggies:
6 cups chicken broth
8 cups diced, peeled potatoes
ground beef
Simmer until potatoes are tender.

Make a white sauce with:
6 T. butter
1/2 cup flour
3 cups milk
Add to potatoes and heat through.

Add:
1 1/2 t. salt
1 t. pepper
8-16 oz. Velveeta cheese
stir until cheese melts.
Blend in 1/2 cup sour cream.

Feeds 6-8 people including teenage guys.


6. Best bit of parenting advice you’ve ever received?

It’s the anti-shame message:Tell yourself:  this is normal.  It’s what children this age DO.
That perspective has helped me stay calm during meltdowns and misbehavior and to deal with it sensibly,quietly, and privately, rather than being horrified and embarrassed.
I just wish I had learned it a lot sooner.

7. Favorite Bible verse?

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. . .” Romans 8:1

 

Author: Keri

71 thoughts on “Footprints on the Ceiling, by Dorcas Smucker + author interview + GIVEAWAY!!

  1. Every new day is a blessing from God. To often I take this for granted. Life is a gift! I need to learn to see each new day as a gift from God.

  2. A blessing I have right now is a nice warm house, some comfortable living room furniture and lots of reading material, because I am going to be spending more than the normal amount of time on the living room furniture these next few weeks.

    1. Aurelia, I found your blog and wish you all the best with your new little one — may he or she wait a while longer to be born! Enjoy the time on the couch while you have it!

  3. A blessing? Why my 14 year old son just handed me a half of breakfast burrito with salsa on it.. that he heated up in the oven by himself [got it out of the freezer] for his brothers, mom, and himself. I didn’t expect he would actually bring it to me on a plate already to eat.. That blessed me SO much!

    1. A 14-year-old who hasn’t had his brain sucked out of his head by hormones is a blessing indeed. (Your post made me very hungry for a breakfast burrito!!)

  4. The thought of so many unhappy marriages in the world make me ever so thankful for the blessing of a loving caring husband and a happy marriage!

  5. We are so blessed to have a fellowship of believers who love each other and work together. I appreciate that so much especially as I read of all the persecuted Christians in the world. It makes me treasure our freedom as a church more and more.

  6. My blessings are in the form of 6 kids…I wouldn’t have orchestrated my life in this fashion, but the Giver of all good gifts has wrote my story this way & I am thankful.

    1. The older I get the more I realize God is a much better conductor than I am when it comes to the orchestra of my life! Hurray for you for mothering SIX!

  7. This time of the year I’m so thankful for a big pile of firewood and a nice, warm house–something that can be easy to take for granted.

  8. After being a single mother for fourteen years, I was blessed with a husband whose love for me has actually helped me understand God’s love for me! It’s been over ten years, and I am still thankful, over and over again, for that blessing.

  9. As soon as I saw that you asked for a blessing that I have that I take for granted, I thought of my dear Husband!! I am so thankful for his faithfulness to God and his love for me and our four children. We just celebrated our 17 wedding anniversary so that gave me a reminder of how special he is!! Thanks for doing this give-away!
    God bless, Teresa

  10. My health is something I often take for granted-until I am not feeling well. When I go to the doctor for a routine physical, I have to fill out paperwork that includes a long list of possible diseases and conditions for me to indicate if I have any of them. I don’t have to check any of the boxes! Thank God for the gift of good health.

  11. A recent unexpected blessing for me was that our hired man accepted Christ on his second visit to church. He had never been to church before and couldn’t figure out why the worship songs made him want to cry. It’s like having a 21 year old “baby” in the faith. We are so blessed by his choice.

    1. This is a tough one — I think we all get so busy we take our beloved family members for grant! Thanks for dropping by, Susanna!

  12. My blessings are my faithful, loving husband and my 2 precious toddlers! Along with a rich Christian heritage! So often I take this all for granted when for most of the world this would be a dream come true!
    I enjoyed your review!
    Dorcas Siegrist

    1. Thank you, Dorcas! Two toddlers at once! God blesses each of us with exactly what we need, even if someone else can’t fathom it (like me, trying to imagine myself with 2 toddlers). 🙂 A family legacy of faith is a rich blessing indeed!-

  13. So many blessings come to my mind, all of the above and more. I’m thankful for friends that can write and express their thoughts with words and then share those words in columns, posts, books, etc. for all of us to enjoy.

  14. A recent blessing for me are two sweet faces officially joining our family (via adoption) giving me the responsibility of grandma. So worth the wait…

  15. I’m thankful for 30 years of marriage that’s as strong now as ever, and in honor of that my husband and I get to go on a cruise in December given to us by our four children, whom I’m thankful for as well!

  16. The biggest blessing I can think of is God’s overwhelming grace, even on a day when it feels like all went wrong. It is the only thing that makes it possible to stand up and try again tomorrow!

  17. Good health. I have a SIL and a best friend who are both battling cancer, and I know I just don’t appreciate my health enough.

  18. don’t add me as an entry, Just wanted to thank you for being a part of Dorcas’ blog tour and asking different questions than the ones I’ve ever thought to ask!
    I’ve been blessed in that even when I turned my back on God, He knew I would be His again and gave me blessing then as well. My children are special and as they parent their children, I’m blessed by what I learn from them – both my children and my grandchildren

    1. You’re sweet, Tabitha! God’s love can be hard to comprehend compared to my human attempts at it. Thanks for reminding us that He is always there for us!

  19. God has given me 16 precious first and second graders. They are such a delightful bunch and truly a gift from God’s hand! I love them dearly!!

  20. I’m blessed by a loving husband who is a good dad to our 5 children. I’m also thankful for the blessing of healthy children. It’s easy to take that forgranted.

  21. Life is full of blessings… we take them for granted too much, because we have so much! The simple idea of having a washer and dryer to launder my clothes is a REAL blessing to me!!

    1. YES! We are bountifully blessed with things that make our lives easier and convenient. If I had to wash my clothes on a rock by a stream . . . perish the thought!

  22. When I think of “gifts given instead”, I think of the fact that my mom is now healed in heaven, instead of being with us here on earth. I miss her so much, but I’m so excited for her that she’s forever free from pain and suffering.
    A huge blessing I have, but sometimes take for granted is my wonderful husband.

    1. The paradox of grief and joy in losing an ill loved one is a familiar road for me too, Ellie. I just lost my dad to Parkinson’s 2 weeks ago. I hope you have many happy memories to ease your sorrow!

  23. I am thankful for 2 sons who are following the Lord with all their heart, and a daughter-in-law that is the perfect match. With all the other things we worry about our kids, to know “where they are going” makes everything else almost a non-issue.

  24. This probably sounds very unimaginative, but my greatest blessings are my husband and kids – for the first time ever, I have someone that believes in me now, they are full of grace and forgiveness towards me, and they make me smile and laugh every day! 🙂

  25. It’s 0 degrees outside this morning, so I am very grateful for the blessings of a warm car, and a cozy house to come back to!
    Thanks for the great review on Dorcas’ book, and the chance to win a free one!

  26. Thanks to you and Dorcas for the informative interview and the opportunity to win her book. I am thankful for my mother who blesses me hugely during her semi-annual visits by cleaning closets and mending clothes, and loves my children by baking all manner of sweet treats and telling dozens of entertaining stories.

  27. Great post! I loved your interview questions (and her answers). I have to say that one of the biggest blessings in front of me is the amazing place I get to live–Alaska. This place is the home on earth (just a stepping stone to where I’m going!) that my heart longed for. And what amazes me is that even with all the beauty I get to see all the time, the PEOPLE here are the biggest blessing. P.S. Love your background picture here on the blog!

    1. Alaska is one of the most stunning places I’ve ever been. It’s vast and so different from what I am used to! I’m delighted you are able to be in just the right spot for you!

  28. I have two precious sons who try my patience each day. I love them dearly but so often get impatient and frustrated with them. I pray that God will help us raise them for HIM and that i will not take them for granted as they are heaven sent gifts to us!

    1. The days are long but the years are short. Sometimes it’s hard to see how quickly they are growing up — God is on your side and with His help you’ll do a fine job!

  29. I am blessed by so many things in so many ways. The ability to walk particularly comes to mind, as I have only half a minis us in each knee causing much pain, yet God gave somebody the wisdom and creativity to invent Unloader Braces which have given me my life back. I am out walking the neighborhood with my kids again. What a joy to spend time with them in that way again. Thank you for your blog! I am having such fun on this blog tour of Dorcas’! The blogs are wonderful!

  30. I am having such fun on this blog tour of Dorcas’! I am thankful for the opportunity to ‘meet’ others and explore their blogs. Thanks for participating. As for what I have taken for granted, years ago it was walking pain free. Now I am deeply thankful to be able to walk at all. Having just half a minis us in each knee, walking has been intensely painful for me for about a decade, but now I have Unloader braces for each leg that have given my life back (and may indeed be saving my life, since I have diabetes), and I am once again able to go for walks with my kids! Precious times!

  31. I am grateful that God spared my aged parents in an accident several weeks ago, on Halloween evening. We are so thankful we can take care of them in their recovery rather than having had a double funeral. I’m also glad I was not traveling with them, like I often do. –Linda

  32. I’m so thankful for the home God has placed me in and my loving family… it’s such a huge gift that I take for granted often

  33. I will have to say my greatest blessing is my family and just enjoying now!! I have 4 little ones and am very busy homeschooling too. But I want to enjoy this stage of life to the fullest cause it’s going so fast!!

  34. Today I am so grateful for good health for our family of seven. It’s so easy to take it for granted until we experience the difficult in life!

  35. I am thankful for a true best friend who prays for me and my family every day. She is a quiet, non-pretentious, thoughtful, caring, godly woman whose testimony of the way she lives her disciplined life and her faithful prayer support mean so much to me. May God help me to be a friend like that to her and to others as well!

  36. I’m so thankful for parents who taught me the importance of having the right kind of values for living a Christian life. My brother and sisters and I are celebrating our parents’ 50th wedding anniversary this weekend! I’m so grateful for my husband- we’ll be married 30 yrs next month!

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