and people — complex masonry work on storefronts, the first red tomato in July, purple-orange sunsets falling on bean fields, and acts of kindness from strangers. "Everyone has their own strengths," Mom often says, eager to find the best in even the "toughest" souls. "Attitude is a choice. Be thankful," Dad reminds when I'm having a rough day.
Now that I'm attending college nine hours from home, I miss hearing my parents' advice and outlook on life. Last week, when I was feeling particularly homesick, I enjoyed reading Footprints on the Ceiling, a collection of essays about day-to-day adventures. The author, Dorcas Smucker, shares a similar attentiveness to goodness, calling readers to observe life closely, soak up wisdom from others, and adopt a grateful attitude.
From the get-go, Smucker explains that she hopes her essays "will make you think of all the paths your life has taken and all the stories you have to tell" (14). Indeed, whether you're a mom, teenager, farmer, or illustrator, there's a relatable story for everyone in Footprints on the Ceiling. The 35 adventures in Smucker's book span from traveling in Thailand to picking blackberries in Oregon to maneuvering dorm life in Arkansas.
As a college student experiencing significant life changes, several essays resonated with me. "The Final Pigtail" engaged me with its description of Jenny's, the youngest Smucker daughter, transition to womanhood, subtly marked by the last pigtail she asked her mom to style. Smucker writes, "We should have had a party for 'The Last Pigtail,' called the rest of the family in, invited a few friends, and made a proper ceremony out of braiding Jenny's long, red hair for the first time and fastening it with the little balls-on-elastic pigtail holder... But I didn't... And, of course, I had no idea it was the last one" (35). Smucker goes on to explain how she watched her daughter grow more independent, worried a bit, and ultimately found comfort in her calling to "stay and pray... celebrating the vivid woman" her child was becoming. Her words beautifully capture the challenges and joys of growing up and watching others make life transitions.
Other essays, such as "Seeing the Invisible," "The Story Goes On," and "A Day in Prison," inspired me to look beyond current circumstances, love others generously, and appreciate the freedoms I have. They provide bits of wisdom that directly relate to my season of life, yet, are applicable to any individual.
Out of all the books Smucker has written so far, Footprints on the Ceiling is my favorite. Smucker has succeeded at delivering powerful essays about finding goodness in the ordinary and meaning in every life story. Her honest words stuck with me long after I finished reading and I hope they'll do the same for you.
***Need a meaningful Christmas gift or simply want to indulge in some good reading? 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. To send a copy to Canada or overseas, email Dorcas at email@example.com.
To stay up-to-date with Dorcas Smucker's writing, visit
***To enter to win a copy of the book, please leave a comment below with your best piece of life advice for a twenty-something. If you would like an additional entry, please leave a second comment with your favorite family recipe.
I'll announce the winner on my blog this Wednesday evening (Nov. 19).