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.

S.O.S.

I need your help. I am finding it harder and harder to write blogs each week now that summer is here. I don’t want to stop though. God doesn’t take a break from us for the summer so I don’t think we should take a break from God. What I would like to do is send you a thought to ponder and I ask that you would write me back what it has stirred in you in the hopes that your input will be just what I need to keep the blog-writing juices flowing. This week I want to send you part of a blog that I read from author and speaker, Jen Hatmaker. It really spoke to me about a challenge I have had following the COVID induced absence from in-person church attendance. And some confused and unsettling feelings upon returning. Church to me right now feels like my best friend, my porch bed, my children and parents and siblings. It feels like meditation and my pecan trees. It feels like my kitchen table, my porch. It feels like Jesus who never asked me to meet him anywhere but in my heart. I am holding space for anyone for whom church feels complicated; struggling with your own ghosts. Jesus is near and good and dear where ever you are. Outside the sanctuary but also inside it too, because he will be found. Wherever you meet Jesus, and his people, and his love for the world and his ways, and his healing work, it is good. You are good. Jesus is good. This is all I know for now. What do you know? Please help me. Joan  ...

The Invitation

Since my last blog, I've met the Holy Spirit. The irony of it was that this encounter was on Pentecost Sunday. I was supposed to golf that afternoon with my friend Kathy but the weather wasn’t cooperating so we canceled. As I was walking from my car to church that morning, I saw Kathy walking ahead of me. We had no idea we attended mass at the same parish. Such a nice surprise. We ended up sitting next to each other. On Pentecost Sunday the “Golden Sequence”, known as the Veni Sancte Spiritus (Come, Holy Spirit) prayer to the Holy Spirit is prayed and chanted. The repetition of this invitation as it’s chanted is powerful. If we really mean it and really want it, it really happens. My goosebumps and tears let the Holy Spirit know I meant it and wanted it and I wasn’t disappointed. After mass Kathy and I decided as long as our original plan for the day was thwarted why not defer to Plan B: breakfast and a mimosa! We had a delicious breakfast and deep conversation that we both felt was an answer to prayer. Time flew by as we shared our challenges, were honest about our shortcomings, and laughed at ourselves all the while sensing, as the morning was unfolding, that it was a gift. Since we were at a restaurant close to Firstfruits, I asked Kathy if I could show her the space. I got to tell her all about Firstfruits, to share with her something so near and dear to my heart. Every time I have the opportunity to tell the Firstfruits story I am overwhelmed with gratitude and a deep sense of the power of the Holy Spirit when we give it room to work. Before we knew it, it was early afternoon and we decided it was time to head home. I felt such a peace the rest of the day. I smiled every time I thought about how I left the house to go to mass that morning, sad and disappointed that my day wasn’t going to go as planned, and ended up back home four hours later full of hope, peace and the Holy Spirit! So much more than a round of golf can provide. The next day we exchanged texts about how that sense of peace had stuck with us. It was hard to explain but so real. I think that every day could be like...

What’s in a Name?

Our grandson, James, turned nine this week. He’s a typical nine-year-old boy with a sports minded dad, grandpa, and uncles so for his birthday we got him a Milwaukee Bucks hooded sweatshirt and a LeBron James tee shirt. In case you don’t know, LeBron James is a star player for the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team and the name our grandson puts on all of his school papers. Good thing he has a teacher with a sense of humor. I expected lots of smiles and excitement when he opened the sports apparel but was so shocked at the reaction when he found a small surprise hidden on top of the sweatshirt. That’s when God showed up at the party. Our grandkids spend a lot of time at Firstfruits. They love to play with the toys there in the Childcare room or sit at the registration desk and pretend to be receptionists. They fill out the comment cards with very affirming comments like “I love it here.” or “This place is great!” Just what I need to hear. Strangely, the one thing they comment on all the time are the name tags of all the women who have joined us at Firstfruits over the years so creatively displayed thanks to Mary Stack, my partner in crime. They like to create their own name tag whenever they are there. For some reason having a name tag was important. So, I asked Mary to make James his very own official Firstfruits name tag on our signature green paper with logo and in a plastic sleeve with the magnets instead of clips or pins that can snag your clothing. (That Mary, she thinks of everything.) I placed the name tag on top of the sweatshirt and when James opened that present, he let out a shout of joy at the sight of that green paper. He wore the name tag for the rest of the party as he was shooting hoops with his uncles in the driveway. Such a simple thing meant so much. It carried great significance to a nine-year-old. It carried great significance to me, too. As I mentioned in my blog last week, I’ve been keeping my eyes and my heart open to the unique ways that God loves me. I encourage you to do the same. It’s amazing what you will see and feel. God’s love not only comes with a sense of being cared for, listened to,...

Holy Hot Dog

In Fr. Gregory Boyle’s book, Barking to the Choir, he gives us many images of God from his time spent ministering to gang members through Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles. The one that stuck with me was a quote from Hafez, a 14th century Persian poet who said: “God and I have become like two giant fat people living in a tiny boat. We keep bumping into each other and laughing.” That is how I like to think of God. I like to think about all the times throughout the day that I bump into God. And how much fun that is. I like to think it’s fun for God too. I like to picture us laughing. I bumped into God last week on a walk. We ended up laughing and singing, me and God. The song: “Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener.” Let me back up. One of the greatest joys of my life is time spent with our six grandchildren. I am the weird kind of goofy grandma. And I’m ok with that. God knows that there is nothing more fun for me than to have surprises for the grandkids when they are with me. Last Sunday they were all coming over for the second time since the pandemic started to celebrate Audrey’s fifth birthday. We didn’t have anything in particular planned so I was trying to think of a fun surprise for the gang. I went on a walk with my friend Jill before they arrived and, on the way, home I gasped when out of the corner of my eye I saw a giant, bright yellow and orange hot dog shaped object in the parking lot of Sendik’s grocery store. It could only mean one thing...

Mother Nature

This week we celebrated Earth Day. In keeping with that theme, we started a six-week series at Firstfruits called Gift, Gratitude and Joy. It focuses on the Catholic social teaching of Care of Creation. I have been caring for creation a bit more than usual lately. I desperately needed some color in my garden. I couldn’t wait any longer, so the day before Easter when I saw these primroses, I just couldn’t resist. (See photo.) I planted them in my containers with some tulips and began a new daily routine. I move them on the rolling cart into the garage at night and out again in the morning. It’s the only way to protect them from the unpredictable Wisconsin spring. It’s worth it though. (I know you aren’t all agreeing with me.) Look how beautiful they are. See what they have done in appreciation for the care. We owe a debt of gratitude to nature for the part she played in helping us through this last year with its isolation and mind numbing shut downs. I can’t tell you how many times during the last year that I found comfort and sanity in nature. Whether it was watching the bird feeder with its array of customers, laughing at the squirrels chasing each other in circles up a tree, or marveling at the turkeys seeking shelter at our front door. The gradual budding of the tree outside my bedroom window gave me a sense of order in a world that seemed so out of order. Nature was/is there for us. We need to be there for her. I came across a quote from Sherri Mitchell, a Native American attorney and sacred activist for environmental protection and human rights that said; ”We cannot see ourselves as having dominion over the land, the water, or the animals. We can’t even see ourselves as being stewards of the Earth. We are only keepers of a way of life that is in harmony with the Earth. Every day, we must act in ways that acknowledge that we are part of one living system, a unified whole.” We are to work together with nature. That was a new concept to me and I like to think about it in that way. We are in relationship with all of creation. That is how God intended it to be. Truth Be Told Bible study ended this week. A summary of all we learned about being...

Once Upon A Time

So, what’s your story? We all have one. Some of us read more like a mystery, some a romance, and some an epic. For some, there are only a few chapters completed, others are putting the final touches on the epilogue. Parts of our story can make you cry and parts will make you laugh. Some chapters are inspiring but some are down-right shameful. In fact, that is a big reason why so often our stories never get read out loud. And what a shame. Because our stories are meant to be shared. Hidden in each one is the footprint of God. If we believe the Corrie Ten Boom quote that reads “Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see,” then we rest in knowing that our stories are perfect in their imperfection. Every bad choice, every missed opportunity, and all the unfulfilled potential are necessary chapters in our story that is still unfolding. God gives us pen and paper to write our stories but is always near-by to help us edit if we decide there are some changes to be made. Those changes I like to call conversions or transformations. And they are a gift from God. There are times in our lives when the storyline becomes disappointing, confusing, or painful. When we realize the depth of our powerlessness to write the ending we desire so deeply, those times are invitations from God to draw close and give him a larger role in the story. Those are the Moment of Grace chapters. When we can share how God has worked in our own lives with others, we have the power to awaken an awareness that may not have been there before. We have an opportunity to give hope to those in similar circumstances and we can possibly bring the doubter one step closer to believing. So much good can come from sharing our stories I encourage you to be open to the times when God nudges you to share your story. Don’t underestimate the power in it to touch hearts and souls. And they lived happily ever after, Joan Read the Scripture verses below and listen to the Truth Be Told video this week on the Conversion of Paul and Cornelius. They have great stories to tell you! Truth Be Told Video – Session 3, Week 5 Truth Be Told Session 3, Week 5 Conversion Acts 8:4-24 Mission in Samaria Acts 9:1-19 The Conversion...

A Strange New World

I’m fully vaccinated and ready to reenter society. Or am I? This week I realized that we needed light bulbs. Seems that was a non-essential during this past year of limited shopping. Then it dawned on me that I could just go to a store and buy what I needed. Wow. So, I decided to head to Home Depot and buy lightbulbs. It was during this outing that I experienced what I was suspicious of, but not willing to admit - Covid Brain. I bought my lightbulbs (and by the way, when did it become a prerequisite that you have a degree in physics to pick out a lightbulb?) and did the Self-Check Out option. I was unaccustomed to “checking out” other than clicking a button on my laptop so I had to think it through. Then my brain defaulted to its self-preservation mode and I scanned the area for hand sanitizer while trying not to touch my purse too much as I put my credit card back in my wallet. Habit. Whew, I made it out alive and as I was driving out of the parking lot, I had a strange feeling something was awry. Then it hit me. My pre-pandemic, multitasking brain was calling from a distant land to let me know I had left my bag with the lightbulbs in it at the check-out. I guess I need to ease my way back into shopping. Or do I? With a year of the pandemic behind us and life beginning to come back to some semblance of normal, we have a decision to make. Just what are we going to allow back into our lives and what are we going to leave forever in the Covid scrapbook? What changes have God’s stamp marked on them? We were talking about this at Well Time this week and many of us felt that a return to simplicity and slowed down thinking were things to bring into this new life. To be more purposeful and in the moment was another. A deeper appreciation for nature and how God speaks to us through creation is a keeper.  And the preciousness of family and community. There was a deeper desire to have really meaningful and life-giving connections with others. One of our neighbors gifted us with a beautiful potted hyacinth for Easter. I put it in the windowsill in the sunshine for a couple days. Nothing seemed to be happening, no...

Finish Strong

Holy Week is upon us. I can’t believe how fast this Lenten season has come and gone. Maybe not giving up sweets this year helped. The weeks didn’t drag on as visions of neglected M&M’s danced in my head. We aren’t traveling anywhere for Easter this year, so I won’t have to deal with my angst over how to spend Good Friday when on the road, away from home. You know what I’m talking about? The times when you focus and commit to filling the weeks of Lent with prayer, self-denial, radical giving, and purposeful turning away from sin only to have that time culminate on Good Friday in an environment far from the somber and focused weeks leading up to it. Whether it's visiting family out of town or a family get away somewhere warm, it poses a challenge. The challenge to remain steadfast in our faith. To finish strong. One year we were invited to spend Easter weekend with close friends out of town. At noon on Good Friday I felt such a pull to somehow acknowledge that this wasn’t just another day. The beauty of the sunshine and the blue ocean was lost on me. I didn’t want to make a big deal about it but I knew I had to do something, so I told everyone I needed to just be alone for a bit and went for a walk to have time away to grieve and recall what Jesus did for me, for all, that day. I think about that day every year as we enter this holiest of weeks. I wonder each year if I would have the courage to do things differently if faced with that same situation now. If I would be bolder in my witness, actually let others know how much I love Jesus, and need to acknowledge the depth of His love for me. I think I would. I know I could and you could too, with the help of the Holy Spirit. Wherever Good Friday finds you, call on the Holy Spirit to enliven in you a boldness and a steadfastness in faith. Be a witness to those around you of what a life opened up to the love and mercy of God, through the sacrifice of Jesus, looks like. Take the cross to the conversation. Joan Truth Be Told Video – Session 3, Week 3 Truth Be Told Session 3, Week 3 Steadfast in the Spirit Acts 4:1-22 Peter and John before...

An Abnormal Answer

My friend Mary asked me a very normal question the other day and got a very abnormal answer. She said, “So, what do you have to do today?” Before I could think, I blurted out, “I have to let God love me today.” Mary is an easy going, non-judgmental friend who just smiles and nods when I say things like that. She’s grown accustomed to it. Either that, or her hearing is getting really bad. Earlier that day, during my morning prayer, I felt very convicted that I needed to just let God love me. So, I set out that day to do just that. Which is why it was the knee-jerk reaction to Mary’s question. We have been studying Henri Nouwen’s book, The Return of the Prodigal Son, this Lent. Nouwen invites us to discover the younger son in us, the elder son in us, and the call to each of us to become the Father. The hallmarks of the Father are compassion, forgiveness, and undemanding love. To become the Father for others we first have to experience the Father in our own lives. We need to let the Father find us, know us, and love us. One of the first ways God loved me that day was through the deep sense of belonging I experienced during the Truth Be Told Bible Study Zoom that morning. We had a great discussion of the early church communities described in the Acts of the Apostles. Communities of caring; not competition, humility, radical generosity, communal prayer, and a deep sense of belonging to each other and to the growing family of God. I sense that same community whenever I think of Firstfruits and that is often. God loved me by reminding me of the blessing of all of you. The rest of the day I felt a calm and an unfamiliar lightness in my mind and my heart. I have to say, letting God love you feels really good. It might become a habit. What do you have to do today? Joan Truth Be Told Video - Session 3, Week 2 Truth Be Told Session 3, Week 2 Life in the Spirit Acts 2:14-36  Peter’s Speech Acts 2:37-47  Growth of the Church Acts 3:1-11  The Mission Continues  ...

A Power Filled Lent

I have been mentioning the Holy Spirit a lot in my blogs this Lent. I am a big fan of the Holy Spirit. Often, I hear people say they can relate to God, the Father, and Jesus but not so much to the Holy Spirit. The notion of the Holy Spirit as wind, fire, a ghost, or a dove just doesn’t help. To me, the Holy Spirit is the power of the love between God, the Father, and Jesus, the Son. That love comes to dwell in us and brings with it gifts. That is a promise from God. These gifts are readily and consistently available to us. The seven Sanctifying gifts (Wisdom, Counsel, Knowledge, Understanding, Fortitude, Piety, and Awe of the Lord) enable us to grow in our own holiness, become more Christ-like. The Fruits of the Spirit (Joy, Peace, Love, Gentleness, Kindness, Goodness, Self-Control, Patience, and Faithfulness) help build the Kingdom here on Earth and the gift of our Charisms (i.e. Encouragement, Teaching, Leadership, Service, or Evangelism) allow us to carry out the universal mission to bring Christ to the world in our own unique way that brings great joy to our lives, God’s goodness to the world and great glory to His name. Baptism is the gateway of the Holy Spirit and Confirmation is the venue through which we receive another promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Dwelling in us and available to us is the same power that was present throughout Jesus’ ministry and witnessed to in all his miraculous healings. The same power that was present at the Resurrection, the Ascension, and Pentecost is dwelling in each of us. God promises to gift us with that power. That promise is the Holy Spirit. And God’s promises are immutable. That is what gives me the confidence to invite the Holy Spirit into my Lent, into my life. We just have to claim it, ask for it, stir it up. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you make this Lenten time of reflection a power filled one. Ask for the power to pray more deeply, give more generously, fast more genuinely, look more honestly inward, and pivot back home to the Father who is waiting. Stir up the Holy Spirit this Lent. Tap into the power. Joan Truth Be Told Video - Session 3, Week 1 Truth Be Told Session 3, Week 1 Promise of the Spirit Luke 24:44-49 Stay in Jerusalem Acts1:1-11 Introduction and Ascension Acts 2:1-21 Pentecost...