Firstfruits began with an idea: How could women’s needs to gather with other women, experience God’s love and go forth more centered on their own giftedness and purpose be met? Then the Holy Spirit stepped in and something powerful happened!
In the beginning … Firstfruits began as a vision for a women’s ministry whose purpose was to gather women to experience God’s love. And as a result, be transformed!

As word spread about this unique opportunity, other parishes became interested in hosting a Firstfruits gathering. It became apparent to the founders of Firstfruits that this “gathering” needed to be moveable. We became known as a moveable feast of spiritual opportunities for women.

Celebrate You

I’m writing you this blog on my birthday. Happy Birthday to me! At my age birthdays are a mixed bag of emotions. There’s the wide-eyed six year old in me, still a bit excited about the prospect of presents and cake and candles. But there is also the realistic sixty something year old trying to be excited in spite of the prospect of more sagging body parts and social security checks coming in the mail. All those things that remind me life is moving very fast. There are two things I like to do on my birthday. I like to reminisce about birthdays past. Since my birthday is in August I never got to celebrate it in school so I felt very deprived. That was back before half birthdays were ‘invented’. Now kids get to bring a treat to school and get sung to and fussed over six months before their birthday. But what I did get to do because of my summer birthday was to have a birthday party at the local mini golf course. I was queen of the greens for a day! I also remember my surprise party when I turned sixteen thrown by my parents which was a bit embarrassing but made me feel very loved. And the year my grown children threw a Family Reunion-themed birthday party for me. It was a joke because I complained about how my family never had family reunions and I see them on Facebook all the time. Everyone looks so happy in their matching tee shirts. The other thing I do on my birthday is thank God for me. Sounds a bit conceited? Well you should try it if you never have. How often we thank God for other people he has put in our lives. Our spouses, children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, and friends. But when is the last time you thanked God for putting life in you, bringing you into the world? For gifting you with the amazing gifts you have? For being the blessing you are to so many?  You are worth celebrating. Shout it from the rooftops! So much of the time we dwell on our shortcomings. We see so well where we fail but not where we don’t. We need to give ourselves a pat on the back and a good dose of “way to go”  at least once a year, but really we should do it more often. I know...

Home

The focus of my summer series of blogs has been to relay to you the findings of my quest to answer my Powerful Question which came out of a pilot group I was part of at Firstfruits last winter. My Powerful Question is, “What language other than words, can I use to express the deepest longing of my heart?” And the deepest longing of my heart is that everyone meets God. So I set out on this quest to find “languages” without words that when encountered help us meet God. So far I have found creation, expressions of love, new life and loving service to be such languages. Well, this week I feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Remember she set out on a quest only to find that her answer was right in her own backyard. She came to realize there was no place like home. My quest has brought me home, back to my own backyard, too. It has brought me to Firstfruits. Since the very beginning of Firstfruits eight years ago, I have struggled to be able to explain what it is in words. I have gently corrected those who call us Fresh Fruits. I have politely explained that no, we are not a produce co-op to a few. Oh and then there are the awkward times at a party or other social event when someone has the great misfortune of asking me “So what do you do?”  Thirty seconds into my elevator pitch their eyes glaze over and I long to be skipping along the yellow brick road myself. You see, Firstfruits is a language without words that when experienced helps us meet God. The key word being “experienced.” The true essence of Firstfruits is felt not heard, just like any truly powerful spiritual encounter. So often our knowledge of God is from words and we overlook or shy away from truly experiencing or meeting God. Fear is probably the biggest reason we stick to words. The thought of “meeting” God sounds a bit scary and for some a bit presumptuous. Firstfruits is a safe and comfortable place to meet God. We hear it all the time. So many women and men, who have crossed the threshold of the front door at Firstfruits, comment that they have such a feeling of calm and peace. They want to linger. With no words of explanation or orientation people feel at...

Service with a Smile

One of my blog readers emailed me with her idea of a language without words that when expressed causes us to meet God. Rosie is her name. She had been reading my series of blogs on this topic and was kind enough to share her thoughts.   Rosie’s language without words is service. More specifically, serving others without judgment and with joy. When we witness that kind of service or are the recipients of that kind of service we meet God’s love and tender care in a powerful way.   I just wish it wasn’t so hard.   Think of all those we are called to serve in a day: spouses, children and elderly parents, co-workers, customers, clients and patients, the marginalized, the lonely, the poor, and the stranger. In short, our brothers and sisters. That is a tall order. On top of our call to serve, we are to do it as Jesus did: free of judgment and with joy in our hearts. Often with no gratitude or recognition.   To serve without judgment. To serve with joy. Which one of those “languages” is hardest for you? Which one requires the most grace to accomplish?   How often we deem someone not worthy of our service as we judge his or her choices, motives, and attitudes. How often do we approach our service to others with resentment and mediocrity rather than joy? Rather than seeing them as brothers and sisters in need we see them as a burden and our service as an obligation, an unavoidable task.   When this is our approach to service, others meet our weaknesses rather than God.   The only way we can express this language of service, as it was intended is to open ourselves to the unlimited power within us in the Holy Spirit. To fire up the fruits of the Holy Spirit that are at our disposal so that our judgmental attitudes are transformed into love and acceptance and our attitude of obligation is transformed into joy.   The pay off is that through that kind of service we bring others face to face with God. Service then becomes a gift and a privilege.   Mary, my Firstfruits partner in crime, speaks this language of joyful, non-judgmental service very eloquently. Whether it’s coming in after hours to scrub the Kiwi Café floor before an event or rearranging chairs at the last minute because I didn’t think they looked right (Don’t judge…), there is a joy in her heart. Her joy...

Newborns

Miracles happen every day. It’s amazing. Some miracles leave an indelible mark on our hearts forever. I had one of those days last Friday. Our newest grandbaby entered the world, all nine pounds, seven ounces of him! I’ve been blogging about the ways that God “speaks” to us of His love without words. Nothing says God like the birth of a baby. Without any words (crying doesn’t count), this new little nugget gave me deep insights into our God in a matter of moments. Here’s what he “told” me. The fine transparency of his fingernails and toenails, the symmetry of his little ears, and the power in his cheeks as he nursed for the first time told me of the detail and the splendor of God’s grand design of the human body. It is an unbelievable creation. But what is even more unbelievable is the design of the body that gave birth. A woman’s body is truly remarkable. We should take time to celebrate how truly remarkable our bodies are, whether we have given birth or not. Without words this baby’s mere presence told me and reassured me of God’s tender care, compassion, and faithfulness. His promise to make much good out of much sadness and pain. Nothing says God like the birth of a baby and nothing says heartache like the loss of a baby. That heartache came to visit our family last year so the birth of this little guy was looked at with eyes of deeper faith and trust and gratitude. A perspective that loss will give. My heart goes out to others who know that perspective. And finally, without words, the face of this little one told me of heaven, gave me a glimpse. There is nothing like the nearness of heaven in the face of a newborn. So fresh from God! All that and not a single word uttered. Be open to meeting God not only in the wise and mature, but in the small and the weak and the helpless too. They have a lot to say. Joan “It is no small thing, when they, who are so fresh from God, love us.” Charles Dickens...

A Language Without Words

I am on a quest this summer to find the answer to my Powerful Question. Are you intrigued? What is a Powerful Question, you say? It would take a whole blog to explain it in detail so let me just give you the Cliff Notes version. According to Dr. John Olesavage, author of Ask *Your Powerful Question and professor at Sacred Heart Seminary, we all have a powerful question that fuels our passions, gives our lives focus and purpose, and ultimately leads us to God. A group of us at Firstfruits experienced the Powerful Question process over the last several months. After a few starts and stops I arrived at what I believe is my Powerful Question a few weeks ago which is what has me on my summer quest. My Powerful Question is: What language, other than words, can I use to express the deepest desire of my heart? The deepest desire of my heart is that everyone would meet God. Not my God, but their God, whatever that looks like. That all would know the depth of the love that is waiting for them. And that that knowledge would bring them an abundant life of joy and peace. So how can I facilitate that “meeting” of the Eternal so I can satisfy my heart’s deepest desire? So far, most of my efforts have involved words. Whether it be in talks I have given, radio spots, the Ponder This stories I wrote, or the weekly blogs you are reading. All good, but since I have been discerning my Powerful Question I have come to realize that there must be a language out there, other than words, that might express this desire even more powerfully. You can talk, write, and broadcast until you are blue in the face and still many will not meet God. I have asked God to show me what those languages might be. Those ways that He communicates, without words, so that I can learn. Thus begins my quest. If you read my last blog you know the first wordless communication God showed me was his presence and power and love through creation. From the smallest bud to the peak of the Canadian Rockies, God gets his point across without saying a word. We meet Him in creation, in beauty. Lesson number one: Creativity and beauty is a language without words through which we meet God. This week He showed me another powerful way...

How Great Thou Art

I just got home from a trip to one of my bucket list destinations, Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. Home to part of the Canadian Rockies and so much more. I can’t wait to tell you all about it but as I am sitting on the plane trying to write this blog, I realize there are no words to really describe what we saw. The splendor and majesty of creation.  The power of the towering mountains and the tenderness of the grizzly bear mama and her cub. The stillness of the mirroring lakes and the harshness of the fast-flowing rapids. The white out snowfalls and the brilliant sunshine lighting up the mountain peaks. And the breathless beauty and color of the glacier-fed lakes. All love letters from the Creator. God’s love is so apparent in nature. A language, without words, telling us how much we are loved. God’s subtle yet spectacular language of love. Something we encounter every day but how often we are blinded to what is right in front of us. I was made aware of this in a very dramatic way on the last day of our trip. We set out to see Peyto Lake which was recommended to us by a local shuttle driver as better than the more well-known Lake Louise. It was a short ten-minute hike up a paved road so we figured we could handle it. As we were parking the car it started to snow. Big deal, you say? You live in Wisconsin, you should be used to it. Well, let me just say mountain snowstorms are a whole different thing. If you think “lake effect” snowflakes are big, you should see the flakes that were settling on our faces as we hiked up the road. They were the size of small Frisbees! Needless to say, by the time we got to the lookout at Peyto Lake it was a total white out. We were blinded to any scenery beyond the pine trees a few feet away. We took a few pictures to laugh at when we got home and started our descent back to the parking lot. Within minutes of our hike down, all of a sudden, the snow stopped, we saw hints of blue sky, and the sun came out. (Another crazy thing about weather in the mountains, it changes on a dime!) So, of course, we went back up. And what we...

The Sunshine of Victory

I opened my eyes this morning to a beautiful sunny day with the temperature at almost 60 degrees before 7am! I felt like running a victory lap around the house! I had made it through the winter and spring of ‘19. For some reason the weather this past five months just made daily living a chore. I think we can safely say the worst is over? I guess, if there is a redeeming factor in our winters, it’s that they make summer so much more enjoyable. If you never experienced frozen nasal passages, would you really appreciate that first warm breeze across your face? Without the trials, the victories aren’t as sweet. Our tendency is to avoid the “winters” of life at all costs. No one welcomes trials but we all get them. We need to be patient in them and look for God’s presence and welcome the healing that can happen as a result of our trials. Did you ever consider the possibility that the tough circumstances in your life were allowed by a God who knew it was the surest way for you to grow in intimacy with Him? The belligerent teenager is there to teach you forgiveness and patience through Him. The miscarriage is there to teach you trust and hope in Him. The difficult spouse is there to teach you unconditional love and perseverance with Him. The fading friendship is there to teach you the shifting of this life and the everlasting life with Him. One other redeeming quality found in the hard times in life is that without them we would never know the love that transcends space through the prayers of others. Have you ever been at the bottom and felt the prayers of others powerfully lifting you up? That is God’s love. That is the first warm breeze. And without the challenge we’d never know the love. The more our lives are lived in Him the more beautiful “summers” we experience. If you’re in a trial right now, don’t anxiously wish it away. Look for God’s goodness that is there in sometimes very subtle ways. Be open to a healing taking place in you. And feel the powerful love of prayer sent your way. Soaking in the sunshine, Joan...

Bucks, Brewers, and the Beloved

Lately I have been hearing a lot about how the Bucks are going to go all the way. They are going to be national champions of the NBA. And how the Brewers could do the same thing. It’s possible they could be World Series champions. I’ve also heard in a session at Firstfruits that I am the Beloved of God. That God loves me with a love that is so powerful it can transform my world and the world of those around me if I allow it to. That’s a lot of good news! Some of it a bit more important than the other. The first two, we have to wait and see. The third one, we don’t. It’s waiting for us. We just have to let ourselves be the Beloved. Why is that so hard? One of the answers to that question lies in the Bucks and the Brewers. The world of competitive sports shows us to win you have to do something, and do it better and bigger and faster and more often than anyone else. The prize isn’t just laid in your lap. It isn’t a gift. It is something you earn. We have learned that hard work brings reward. And that is true in the world of sports but not in the life of the Beloved. We are conditioned to think we have to “win” the title of Beloved and that in order to “win” something as incredible as the love of God we have to work hard. And most likely never do well enough. But that isn’t true, not with God. And that is why it’s so hard to believe we could be God’s Beloved. It’s not something we earn; it’s something we were born to be. In fact we were God’s Beloved before we existed. We have to allow it, that’s all. The reason it’s not so easy to allow that love is that we know we haven’t always been on the top of our game, worthy of praise, and adoring fans, especially to God. We may not have been batting a thousand in our past and we see what happens to sports stars when they hit a rough patch in their careers. They are sent down to the minors or traded away. That isn’t what happens to the Beloved. We can hit rough patches daily and know that there is a love there that never leaves us, never puts us...

The Tea Party

I had a tea party with my soon to be four year old granddaughter yesterday. As I teetered on the much too small plastic chairs sipping “delicious” air from china cups and eating plastic peas and chicken legs, my granddaughter proceeded to tell me about her day at school. “I skinned my knee at recess, fell off my chair, threw up (apparently there is a lot of stomach flu going around the last few weeks) and broke all my crayons.”  She took a sip of air from her tea cup and a bite of her plastic chicken leg and calmly asked me “So what did you do today?” The smile on her face let me know she had made all that up so I decided to play along. I got to thinking, what could I tell her I did today that would be as funny? Immediately I thought of not what I had done physically that day but mentally. And I started the litany. It isn’t so funny. “Well I procrastinated for a while, then I catastrophized briefly, worried for a couple hours and then ‘should’ myself to death.” (If you don’t know what that is, it’s when you repeatedly say to yourself “I should have done better, I should have not said that, I should have thought of that,” etc.). She smiled; we clinked our toy teacups and said “cheers!” She had no clue what I just said, thankfully. They were just funny words to her. It was sobering to me. Oh, to be almost four again. Rather than living in worry, anxiety, self-criticism, hyper vigilance, or guilt, living in the moment with curiosity, acceptance, trust, and lightheartedness! That is how God wants us to spend our days. Trusting in His ever-present care and never ending, incomprehensible love. We have to keep reminding ourselves that it is there for us always. And be open to how and where He is going to remind us. Like at a tea party. This habit of reminding ourselves is a discipline, like exercising or eating right. It takes spiritual discipline for God’s care and love to become our default setting. To become the first place we go in our thoughts when we are tempted by negative, self destructive, peace stealing thought patterns. I am better than I used to be but still fall into this trap more often than I would like. Well Time is a new series at Firstfruits on Wednesday...

Bunny Butt Pancakes

I scored some serious grandma points this week. Thanks to my friend who sent me the ‘recipe’ for Bunny Butt Pancakes. (See the picture.) I’ll do anything to keep the little ones amused and ward off the melt downs. I found myself in grandma (or Num Num as my grandkids call me) mode a lot these last couple weeks with schools on spring break and our son and daughter-in-law moving into a new house. I was happy I could help out but it was a lot of work. One day we had all five of the darlings at the same time. It’s not for the faint of heart. It dawned on me that some families have five children the ages of our grandkids. They are 8, 6, 5, almost 4, and just turned 3 with one on the way. And they live with them everyday, not just one day! My admiration goes out to all you moms of young children and not so young children. Dads too, but I’ll catch you in June. Right now, with Mother’s Day coming soon I want tell all you moms how amazing you are. And don’t let any online articles, Facebook posts, well-meaning relatives, or sarcastic grown children make you feel otherwise! Remember two things. 1. You were amazing, you are amazing, and you will be amazing! Your sacrificial, unconditional love is your child’s first glimpse of the deep love of God. Your day after day commitment to your vocation as a mom is how they learn the ever-present and constant care and concern of a loving God. Your discipline with love helps them better understand God’s just yet merciful nature. And your bunny butt pancakes show them that God is smiling on them and wanting their lives to be full of joy! 2.You are never alone in your motherhood gig no matter how long you have been at it. In those quiet hours of the night as you rock your precious one, or stare opened-eyed at the ceiling waiting to hear your teenager’s keys in the front door, or make futile attempts to pray as you wait for the text that your baby’s baby has arrived healthy and safe, you are not alone. That same God you have mirrored as a mother is mothering you. He is looking on you as precious, He desires that you are safe and at home with Him, and He cares deeply that you know and...