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.

Courageous Joy

I dare you to be joyful. I challenge you to express gratitude outwardly today. I’ll bet my last, secretly stashed bag of dark chocolate covered almond and sea salt butterscotch caramels that you can’t go half a day without a negative thought. Heck, I’ll say half an hour. These days it’s even harder than usual to be positive as we deal with all that the world is challenging us with. It’s hard enough to just maintain our precarious sanity that seems to come and go, let alone be joyful. I think that is what is wearing us down the most as the months of Covid plod on. Preserving our sanity. How then can we muster up the energy to be joyful? My Covid time prayers are mostly filled with pleas for peace and calm and safety and the coping skills to achieve those things. There isn’t a whole lot of mention of joy and gratitude. But I was reminded this week of something that I never think to pray for that just might be the way to joy. Courage. I received an email from a friend that included a blog written by Mallory Smith entitled Joy Takes Courage. I never really thought about the fact that it takes courage to risk revealing your joy. In this blog the author states “It is much more difficult and risky to focus on and share about the good things that happen to us. There is more at stake. We risk annoying someone. No one wants to be a Pollyanna in a Kill Bill world. Or we risk magnifying another’s pain. We are all too familiar with the jealousy we have felt at the good fortune of another.” Mallory Smith emphasizes that we should not hide our bad days or feel like we have to push our negative feelings under the rug. We need to be able to go to friends for comfort and advice. We need to be able to share honestly. That kind of sharing seems to come more easily. Who doesn’t love an occasional group pity party? It’s the sharing of the good, the beautiful, the Divine in our lives that doesn’t come as easily. Dr. Brene Brown says “Joy is the most vulnerable emotion we experience.” Unleashing our joy is just too risky. That is why we need courage. So how do we become courageous? As the blog says, “How do we embrace joy in a cynical world?...

The Balm of Creation

I’m writing this blog on October 4th, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. So, it only makes sense that I feel compelled to tell you about a Netflix’s documentary I stayed up way too late to watch last night called My Octopus Teacher. It was a beautiful story of a man and an octopus. Something St. Francis would have loved, I think. To be honest, I never have given much thought to octopuses before. (Fun Fact for the day--I looked up the plural of octopus and discovered there are three acceptable options: Octopuses, Octopi or Octopodes.) But after seeing this film, I have much more respect and affection for them. I have a new-found respect and affection for all of God’s creatures but not just from watching that film. I also “attended” a virtual retreat this weekend entitled Gift, Gratitude, and Joy-Finding Our Sacred Roots in God’s Creation put on by the Archdiocese and Waukesha County Creation Care Network. Debra Schneider, who will be co-facilitating our new scripture study Truth Be Told this fall, hosted the retreat and gave a talk that really opened my eyes to the sacred connection we have to all of creation. I came away with a renewed sense of our responsibility to God’s perfect plan for how to preserve and sustain all of creation. Our focus each day shouldn’t be on what is easy for us, it should be on what is most beneficial to the preservation of all of creation for generations to come. This time of year, God’s creation dazzles. There is no denying the sacredness and the presence of a Master’s plan as we witness once more the changing of the seasons. The trees at work, the animals preparing, and the sun leaving us sooner each day to follow it’s ageless path. Everything in sync. Everything obeying the Master’s plan. Creation reminds us that in the plan of the Master there is assurance, constancy, and predictability. Due to recent events, many of us are feeling confused, anxious, and unsettled. It’s as if each day brings a new set of questions with no answers. Let God’s plan for creation that is on powerful display these days, give you a renewed sense of assurance, constancy, and predictability. When all seems in chaos, take a look out your window instead of at your TV. And if you are really struggling to make sense of the world you might want to look...

Believe It or Bologna

Will wonders never cease? As you recall from last week’s blog, my husband and I just celebrated our fortieth wedding anniversary. I mentioned how clueless I was on our wedding day to the presence of God with us. I didn’t really understand or appreciate the promise in Ecclesiastes 4:12 that “A threefold cord is not easily broken.” It wasn’t until many years later that I opened my eyes and my heart to this reality. I also told you about the marvelous gourmet meal that my friend Stacy and her daughter, Loralei, made for my husband and I out of the kindness of their hearts and how it was for us another sign of God’s presence and tender care. End of story, I think not. The day after the dinner we went over to our daughter and son-in-law's house for what ended up being a surprise, socially distanced gathering for donuts and coffee with the family. As we came around the corner, this picture was snapped. Notice anything strange, other than the fact that I’m carrying around our framed wedding photo? Like the ray of light we seem to be standing in? The threefold cord? Overexposed film, faulty flash, or maybe just coincidental shading effect? You can smile and rationalize away these moments, but to me they are God’s glory made manifest in our everyday, jean wearing, red bag toting , bad hair day days. They are gifts from a God who sees us, hears us, and loves us like we can’t even imagine. When these manifestation of the glory and presence of God show up, it’s our privilege and our responsibility to share them with the world so others may begin to open up to the possibilities. “Believe it or bologna,” I always say. That is the choice we have when faced with manifestations of the Divine in our ordinary lives. Believing is so much better than bologna, and a lot healthier! Be open to the ways that God wants to shine His love and care on you. Watch for His reminders of His presence and promises. Especially during these challenging times. Watch for His glory made manifest in the simplicity of these unusual days. And if you spot Him, be sure to let me know. Joan I hope you will consider joining me for Ponder This starting October 13 on Zoom from 12:30-2:00 where I will share more of my “Believe It or Bologna” stories in my Ponder This book...

I Wasn’t Dreaming

Forty years ago today, I woke up in the Point Hotel in Mineral Point, Wisconsin. My best friend, Mary, was in the bed next to me. A long white dress and veil hung in the corner.  In six hours, I would officially break the hearts of many girls in this small town. I was marrying the hometown sweetheart. It was a picture-perfect sunny fall day. My husband’s grandma and grandpa lived across the street from the church. I got dressed at their house and when it was time to head over to church, grandpa stood in the middle of the street to stop traffic so I could cross. I remember it like it was yesterday, standing in back of church with my dad as the heads were turning, the music was starting, and his arm was sliding into mine and he whispered, “Ready?”  The details of that day are still so vivid. My favorite, seeing my macho husband-to-be crying at the altar. There was however one detail that went unnoticed until many years later and has proven to be the most important. Without a formal invitation and relegated to the background, God joined us that day. As it says in the Bible in the book of Ecclesiastes 4:12. “A threefold cord is not easily broken.” Our threefold cord was woven that day and hasn’t snapped yet in spite of years of wear and tear. Marriage is work. Let me say that again, marriage is work. And sometimes situations arise that make it impossible to stay married. But when things can be worked out, inviting God into the work with wisdom from above can make all the difference. God’s wisdom has taught me to pray before I speak. To be grateful for what I do have rather than what I wish I had. To focus on the gifts and the goodness in my marriage. And to realize that true and lasting change starts with me. Not only has the third person in our threefold cord provided wisdom over the years, He has provided blessings galore and sometimes in the form of chicken marsala.  In a group Zoom meeting yesterday morning I mentioned that we were celebrating our fortieth anniversary that night. Because of Covid we were just going to order out dinner and eat at home. After the meeting one of the women said she would like to make dinner for us at our house. At first I thought...

Zooming in on the Holy Spirit

I came face to face with the Holy Spirit this week. It was the face of Julie, one of fifteen faces that joined me on Zoom for Well Time on Wednesday. I was in a Spirit stupor when I came home and proceeded to tell my husband all about it. He said “That sounds like blog material. You better write it down before you forget.” But this isn’t something you soon forget. And I wasn’t the only one who felt it. I noticed a name I didn’t recognize as we were beginning the Well Time Zoom last week. It turns out Julie was joining us for the first time. When it was her turn to share or pass on the topic for the day she shared a story that we all agreed afterward could only be the workings of the Holy Spirit. Julie lives in Michigan. She attended a Firstfruits mini retreat day with her daughter five or six years ago when we were traveling to different venues. She participated in an art class facilitated by Sr. Karlyn Cauley. As Julie puts it, “that experience changed her life.” Through the encouragement of Sr. Karlyn, Julie began to express her spirituality through art. She showed us two of her watercolors in the series she called "The Woman at the Well" at Well Time. Coincidence...

Could This Be Your Chance?

I’ve mentioned the Kobi Yamada book entitled What Do You Do With a Chance in a previous blog but it’s worth mentioning again. The book details a young boy’s struggle to take the chances that come his way. After holding back on many chances and sensing a sadness about that, he promised himself that the next time a chance came by, he would take it. “Then one seemingly ordinary day, I saw something shining far off in the distance. Is it possible? I hoped. Could this be my chance? I had to find out. I ran as hard and as fast as I could toward it. I don’t know how to explain it, but the second I let go of my fears, I was full of excitement. It wasn’t that I was no longer afraid, but now my excitement was bigger than my fear. As I got closer, I could see that this was a really huge chance! But this time I was ready. As it came by, I reached out and grabbed it. I held on with all my might. It felt so good to soar, to fly, to be free! I now see that when I hold back I miss out. There’s just so much I want to see and do and discover.” Are you feeling like this young boy? Are you ready to grab the chance to awaken a sleepy faith, deepen an unchallenged faith, and expand a predictable faith? Are you ready to grab the chance to learn about the biblical promises of unconditional love and abundant blessing that abound in the life of a disciple of Jesus? Are you ready to grab the chance to discover the freedom and peace in a life transformed and fueled by the Holy Spirit? Firstfruits has two new programs we are offering this fall that just might be your really huge chance!  We are so excited to announce our new bible study called Truth Be Told. As the saying goes, "To fight truth decay, read your bible every day.” The Bible isn’t meant to be looked at as a museum piece to be set on a shelf to collect dust. I have to admit that is exactly where my first bible went for a very long time. The Bible is alive. It is the living word of God. It is our manual for how to live the life we were meant to live. Isn’t it time to read the manual? We will study...

A Buddy

I just spent the better part of a gorgeous Saturday setting up my new computer. Well, actually I sat next to Lynda, our Firstfruits IT person, and watched her set up my new computer. She is amazing. She has a part of the brain that I either did not receive or never downloaded! I don’t know how us common folk are supposed to figure out such sophisticated technological challenges. I find it doesn’t even help to write down what the Geek Squad at Best Buy tell me to do. By the time I get home I don’t remember what half of the terms meant that they so quickly rattled off and I was too embarrassed to have them repeat three times. But I sure am glad they are there. I really do appreciate people who have knowledge and experience that I don’t have. People I can lean on and learn from when I am confused and in need of direction.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have those kind of people available when you are in need of direction in your spiritual life? Someone willing to share their knowledge and experience of the challenges and joys of a life in the Spirit. Someone to guide you to the next right step as you focus more intentionally on growing in faith.  This new season of Firstfruits we are providing people you can lean on and learn from as you navigate the spiritual life through our Spiritual Sponsor program. These spiritual companions are passionate about helping you find what you are looking for in your walk of faith. It starts with listening as you share your faith story; where you have been, where you are now, and where you wish to be. They can educate you on the Firstfruits Tracts and help you discern what offerings within those tracts might be just right for you at this time.  They are there for you every step of the way no matter if those steps go forward or backwards! As the quote on the wall at Firstfruits says, “We are all just walking each other home.”  Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you want to learn more about this program. I have heard so many women in the course of the last six crazy months say how lonely they have become. We thrive on relationship and need it now more than ever. Our loving God wants to heal that loneliness with his presence...

What’s New

As the saying goes, kids say the darnedest things. Well, in the case of our four-year-old granddaughter, Audrey, I’d have to say kids just plain tell it like it is. My good friend, Mary, sent me the above picture on my birthday last week. It was her wedding day in May of 1985. That was the “before” picture. Below it in my card was the “after” picture, a current shot of the two of us from our trip to Canada last year. That picture will stay in the card. (The aging process is amazing, to put it gently.) I showed the wedding photo to our granddaughter Audrey and without skipping a beat she said “Num Num, you look so new” and continued on her merry way to play with her cousins. Leaving me laughing...

The Times, They Are A-Changin’

I witnessed another amazing miracle of nature last week and again it was right in my own backyard. If you’ve been blogging with me, you remember the fawn that was born under our deck and the huge toad on our patio that the grandkids named Katherine? Well I think this latest discovery takes the cake. This summer the grandkids and I have enjoyed one day a week together at Camp Num Num. (Their nickname for me.) On the last day of Camp Num Num we were walking past a tree in our backyard when I spotted a large brown, crusty bug camouflaged on the tree bark. (See photo) I pointed it out to the “campers” who were mildly interested but much more focused on the marshmallows we were going to roast on the stove. So we moved on. A few hours later as we were making our way back from our adventures in the wild at the Chocolate Factory (Notice there is slot of sugar at Camp Num Num?) when I happened to glance at the same tree and there was the miracle! (See title photo) We witnessed the birth of an adult cicada. But to me it signaled so much more. A do-over. Have you ever wanted a life do-over? Another chance to shed your old, crusty, cumbersome habits and ways of living life and bring on a transformation that allows newness and a beauty to emerge for all the world to see? With the isolation brought on by the pandemic, we have been given sacred time to look within. Changes are happening. Our priorities are shifting. We are letting go of control. Our hearts are growing in compassion. Our souls are opening to a bigger picture and a higher power. There is so much potential for growth during this time of quiet, this time the Creator is giving us to transform within. Firstfruits has also undergone a quiet transformation through this time. A beautiful newness of purpose and focus has emerged as a result. We want to be there to walk with you through the transformations. Starting this fall Firstfruits is dedicated to helping women on their unique paths to a lived and meaningful faith life. Our programming is formatted into three tracts: Awaken, Deepen, and Expand, depending on what you are looking for at this time. And if you’re not sure what you are looking for we have Spiritual Sponsors available to help you discern what your...

Silence is Golden

In the later years of my mom’s Parkinson’s disease she found it harder and harder to follow conversations and a lot of talking made her anxious. So when my siblings and I were all together visiting her in the nursing home, she would patiently listen to us gabbing on and on and finally when she couldn’t stand it anymore she would say to us, “Can you just stop talking!” Sometimes when it was just me visiting she would say, “Let’s just be quiet.” She taught me the value of being in the presence of another person and not have to be talking. A very valuable lesson. Silence truly was golden for my mom and it is for us because it is the doorway to living the virtues of Jesus that we have been pondering the last few weeks. Life is a constant struggle between the needs of our ego self and the desires of our true self. A powerful tool in that battle is silencing. And guess what the first thing is that we need to silence in order to live the virtues of Jesus? “All spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that come from his mouth” (Luke 4:22) This verse that describes Jesus is where we are to begin the silencing that prepares us to live fully the virtuous life we are looking for. We need to silence our words. Silence does not mean absence of words, but rather moderation of our speech so everything we say serves some good purpose. In his book Growing in the Virtues of Jesus, Quentin Hackenewerth, SM goes on to say: Saint James says the most important member of our body to discipline is our tongue because if we can control our tongue we can control our whole body. So making a virtue of speaking is a good place to begin our growth in the virtues of Jesus. Words-even ordinary words-have great power. The difference in the effect of our words depends on where the words come from inside us: from the ego-centered habits of our ego self or from the virtues of our new self in Jesus. We develop silence of words by becoming aware of our own habits and by recognizing what is behind them. Then we “silence” what comes from our ego and let our speaking be guided more and more by the attitudes of Jesus in our true self. How many times do we say...