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Joan Carey, Author at FIRSTFRUITS - Page 24 of 28

Blessings

I have a lot of blessings to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. There are the more universal blessings that remind me there is a loving God. A supportive husband, three grown children and their spouses who are genuinely good and kind human beings, five beautiful grand babies, my health, purposeful work, and friends and family who love me...

The Thrill of Hope

I met four incredibly inspiring women this week. I can’t stop thinking about them. Last Wednesday evening as part of the Firstfruits mini retreat, we had a session on grief and loss. I was blessed to be allowed to share in these four women’s stories of loss and heartbreak. Three of the women had lost a spouse. Two of them at a very young age. For one, widowhood had come to visit for a second time. And one of the women had lost a son. I can’t stop thinking about them because of the impact their strength and courage has had on me. Even as they spoke of living in a fog and finding it hard to just get out of bed some days, their courage and strength shone through. They somehow found the strength to continue on. I know there are many other grieving women and men and children out there that these women represent. Some reading this blog, some in my exercise class, some in my neighborhood, some in my own family. Along with the inspiration I gained from being allowed into the hurt these women have endured was a lesson I learned that I want to share. A lesson on how to help those who are hurting. Here’s what I learned from these brave, tender hearted teachers: ·       Talk about the loved one that has passed. Use their name. Say it out loud. ·       Don’t worry about what to say, about saying the right thing. Just be there in silence. Less is more. ·       It’s a couple’s world. Include those who are single in your plans. Think of them. Include them. ·       Don’t put parameters on their grief or a timeframe. Just let them grieve. Don’t try to fix it. With the holidays coming up it’s important to be especially caring and compassionate to those who are grieving. The holidays aren’t a Hallmark movie for everyone. Some are having to dig a little deeper to find something to be thankful for and to some the coming Christmas season is anything but merry. The other reason I can’t stop thinking about the strength and courage of these women is that it’s such a testimony to the love and compassion our God has for us. At our weakest he is strong. He is our strength. He is our hope. He calls on us to deliver that hope to others. His hope promises to soothe the grief. Not remove it but soothe...

Destiny

I met someone this week who told me she actually reads my blogs! (Rosie, you know who you are?!) It felt good to be affirmed and encouraged. I met her when I was asked to speak to a group of women who began meeting monthly about three years ago to share fellowship, faith and spirits. (The liquid kind that is!) I came to find out that I was their swan song so to speak. The gathering I was invited to speak at was the last for this group of women committed to their faith. There wasn’t anyone able to take over the responsibility of organizing the group going forward. I thought maybe there is a reason I was asked to talk to this group at this time. The topic I was to speak on was my faith journey and how it led to Firstfruits. To explain what the mission of Firstfruits is and what we are all about. And what Firstfruits is all about is gathering women for fellowship, to grow in their faith and to experience the Spirit. A perfect match. A perfect solution. Perfect timing from our perfect God. Have you ever discovered you were put somewhere or met someone or went through something at the time you did, for a reason? That God had something to do with the timing of events? Often times we don’t see it as it’s happening, only in retrospect. How often our history plays a part in our destiny. On Tuesday mornings we have a bible study at Firstfruits. We are studying the book of Esther. It’s all about destiny and how God shows us dimensions of our destiny throughout our lives. The providential hand of God is at work in our lives all the time. Esther, a Jew, is crowned Queen of Persia which in that time was a miracle in itself. The timing of her queenship is perfect because a decree had gone out to annihilate all the Jews. Esther, however, is in a perfect position to influence her husband, King Xerxes, and save her people. Speaking up is risky for Esther. She possibly could face death, but if she doesn’t act on what she knows she is being called to do, not only will she die but her people too. A dimension of her destiny is before her. She has to make a decision. She’s scared and unsure. Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, responds to her reluctance with...

Goodness

I have a Firstfruits hangover! There was just too much fun and happiness and love all in one room at our First Anniversary celebration last Thursday. I don’t know what was better: the band, the food, the raffle items, or the fellowship. God’s hand was in it all! As I looked around the room at people laughing and dancing I was reminded of the importance of recognizing and celebrating the profound goodness that is around us every day. So often we get mired in disappointment, discouragement, and defeat. The “glass half empty” syndrome. When right in front of us is God’s constant reminders of his unfathomable love. How did he show that love? Free use of a beautiful space for our event when the weather didn’t cooperate. Through the generosity of Jamie O’Donoghue who provided food for us and the Brzezinski family who provided the beverages. Through the talent of No Expectations, a band of local musicians lifting our moods and our feet with their beats. Through the loyalty of an old friend who drove hours to be there to surprise me, who “wouldn’t have missed it.” Through the unfailing dedication (and patience with my crazy ideas) of Mary Stachowiak and the band of merry volunteers that truly are God’s hands. ...

The Birthday Party

The last eight years of my life have been full of grand babies. I had gone almost twenty years without endless crying in the house (unless the Packers lost), the unmistakable scent of a dirty diaper, or macaroni noodles cemented to the floor. But it’s all back, and this time around I can’t get enough of it! I especially love the birthday parties of my grand babies, in particular, that first birthday. Each time I witnessed the first birthday ritual of suffocation with frosting and cake, I couldn’t help but be in awe of the dramatic development that occurs in those first twelve months. It’s truly a miracle only attributable to God’s perfect design. I’ve been reminded of this as Firstfruits is celebrating its first birthday this week. We are in awe of how things have developed over the course of the last twelve months. God had a perfect design for this spiritual home and through his provision and faithfulness it has begun to unfold. And it has only just begun. Like a one-year-old child there is so much yet to happen, so much purpose to be discovered, so much potential to be unleashed. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. To enable that child to reach his or her fullest potential. To be all that God intended them to be. The same is true for Firstfruits. God’s perfect design for Firstfruits includes you. For Firstfruits to reach its full potential we need your input. We need your wisdom, we need YOU. If you are a regular at our events let us know why. If you have never joined us, or it’s been a while since you joined us, tell us why. If you have ideas or suggestions let us know. If you are feeling a pull to help us nurture and develop this one-year-old by volunteering, be sure to let us know. And remember, you’re all invited to a birthday party for Firstfruits this Thursday, October 18 from 7-9pm at our new home in the Village Court in Elm Grove. Live music, beer and wine, food from O’Donoghues Pub and plenty of FUN! The only gift required is the gift of you. ?Happy Birthday dear Firstfruits, Happy Birthday to you.? Joan...

Baseball Fever

I’ve had writers block lately. I can’t seem to concentrate on writing a blog. Well that isn’t really true. I’ve actually had Brewer fever, being that I’m a huge baseball fan and live in Milwaukee. The time I have when I should be writing is now occupied with the Brew Crew’s post season antics. But to be honest, tucked away in me is a sentimental love for the Chicago Cubs. (Every time I say that out loud I duck because I think someone is going to hurl something at me.) I have fond memories as a kid going to Wrigley Field with my dad and siblings. If we weren’t at the game we were listening to it on the radio or TV sitting on our screened in porch sipping on Hawaiian Punch. One of the highlights of my life was meeting Ernie Banks in person 26 years ago. He was moving a lot slower than I remembered him but it was still a thrill. Baseball has consumed me the last couple weeks. A far cry from one year ago. Last October I didn’t care who was occupying the bases I was consumed with getting a permit to occupy the new home base for Firstfruits. We were scrambling to finish the remodel of Firstfruits’ new permanent home in Elm Grove. I can’t believe it has been a year already since we began welcoming women, children, and men to this holy space. It’s been a year of learning and growing. We had our share of laughter and tears. But most memorable was the deep sense of awe at how things unfolded. It wasn’t a year of worry, anxiety, or fear as you might expect when starting something new because we were constantly reminded of God’s presence and provision. We trusted and He didn’t disappoint. That’s the God we’ve come to know at Firstfruits. That’s the God that is waiting to provide for you in the uncertainties of life. We hope you will join us October 18 from 7-9pm as we celebrate God’s care and provision for Firstfruits at our One Year Anniversary FUNraiser! We’ll have live music, food and drinks, and raffle opportunities. Save the date, it’s sure to be a home run! Joan...

God Lenses

My husband asked me to go with him last weekend to pick out new eye glasses. That’s considered a date for us old married couples.  Something new and exciting to do on a Saturday afternoon. Sad but true. He ended up getting glasses that look just like the ones he was replacing. I was hoping he would go for something wild and out of the box like maybe brown frames instead of black. But alas, you can take the man out of the bank but you can’t take the banker out of the man. He did do something kind of radical however. He opted for the transition lenses. The ones that gradually turn dark as you transition from indoors to outdoors. Dark to light and vice versa. They adapt to whatever environment you find yourself in. You don’t have to even think about it. It just happens. They keep you protected and help you adapt to sudden changes. Life is a series of changes, transitions, some more painful than others. Some transitions are common and to be expected: marriage, childbirth, menopause, the empty nest, retirement, and the golden years.  Others are forced on us: divorce, unemployment, loss of a spouse, miscarriage, and acute or chronic illness. All these situations require courage to accept the change, trust in an unknown and hope for something better. Wouldn’t it be awesome if there were a type of lens we could put on that would see us through life’s transitions? That would protect us and help us adapt to the inevitable changes life sends our way?  There is such a thing and its available, without a prescription, to anyone who wants it. We just need to begin to see life through God lenses. See that every “end” is really a new beginning. That in the midst of all the change, one thing is constant and immutable and that is the presence and the love of God. That is where the courage, the trust and the hope come from. Fall is nature, transitioning. The sights and sounds and smells of autumn remind us of the beauty that is part of change. It trains us year after year to see the purpose in change and helps us trust and hope in what is to come. Eventually there will be new life again. We see it year after year after year. We can rest knowing there will be blooms again in Spring. The God...

Soul Density

I’ve been taking good care of myself lately. I had my yearly checkup, my annual mammogram, and a trip to the dentist, all in one week. Woohoo! I did have to add one new medical test to my repertoire this year. It’s probably the least stressful medical diagnostic test you can have, a bone density test. You just lay there for ten minutes and stare at the ceiling. No squishing, poking, scraping, or drilling involved. Why can’t they all be like that? The purpose of a bone density test is pretty self-explanatory. It measures how dense your bones are. The denser the better. Keeping your bones healthy with exercise and plenty of calcium and Vitamin D in your diet keeps you strong and less likely to suffer bone breaks when you experience stress to your body. And the trauma doesn’t necessarily have to be severe. My mom broke her hip getting down off of a chair and my mother-in-law broke a hip while mini-golfing with my son and his friend! (Side note: The most traumatizing moment of the ordeal for the boys wasn’t when the ambulance came for my mother-in-law. It was when grandpa showed up in shorts and cowboy boots because he was so flustered when he got the call he just grabbed whatever shoes he could find.?) Ordinary, everyday life can be the stress that causes our brokenness if we aren’t healthy, spiritually healthy that is. How dense is your soul? How healthy and strong is it? Do you exercise your soul and feed it what it needs to be healthy and strong so that when life presents you with trauma, stress, and challenges you don’t break? My bone density showed that I don’t have osteoporosis but I don’t have nice dense bones either. I need to up my intake of calcium and Vitamin D. I need to become more serious and intentional about exercise and feeding my bones what they need to insure they will get me to the finish line. The same can be said for our souls. I stopped at the Vitamin Shoppe on my way home from my appointment and stocked up on calcium and Vitamin D. I hope you’ll consider stopping at Firstfruits and stocking up on what you need to feed your soul. Firstfruits is like the Vitamin Shoppe for the soul. We have all kinds of soul boosters at Firstfruits this fall. Our first mini-retreat of the new season...

Ball Bearings and Baguettes

Have you ever gone to the hardware store for a loaf of bread? “Of course not” you say, but I bet you have. I know I have, figuratively speaking that is. I first heard the saying “You’re going to the hardware store for a loaf of bread” a year ago. It really got me thinking. You don’t go to the hardware store for a loaf of bread because it doesn’t make sense. Everyone knows you don’t find bread at the hardware store. If you go looking for it there you will end up frustrated, disappointed, and empty handed. If it’s bread you need, go where you are sure you’ll find bread. I realized I go to the hardware store for a loaf of bread every time I put unrealistic expectations on the people in my life. When I look for them to give me what they do not have to give. Sometimes, not only do I go to the hardware store for a loaf of bread but I refuse to leave when I realize there is no bread. I get angry and resentful that I can’t get what I need from the person that I expect it from. When I look for affirmation, validation, happiness, and a sense of well-being from anywhere or anyone other than God, I find myself frustrated, disappointed, and empty. People will always disappoint. God won’t. He wants to provide all that we need and keep us from looking for fulfillment in all the wrong places. The bread we need to look for is the bread of life. In John 6:35 Jesus says “I am the bread of life, he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall not thirst.” That’s a promise. The God I know doesn’t break a promise. So, whatever it is you are hungry and thirsty for look to God to satisfy. Stay out of the hardware store, even if there is an 11% rebate on everything! Joan...

The Not So Merry, Go-Round

Whew, I made it through the summer with minimal time spent at the Midway with the grandkids. I wasn’t meant for amusement park rides. It’s an inner ear thing or just a strong desire to be in control of my bodily functions but I struggle with anything that moves in a circle at high speeds. Just the thought of a Tilt-O-Whirl right now has me reaching for the Dramamine. But for the sake of an analogy, I want to talk about the merry-go-round. A merry-go-round is a perfect analogy for our lives. Some of us are adventurous and ride on the horses and thrive on the ups and downs while others play it safe within the gondolas. Regardless of where we are situated, the fact is often life feels like we are just going around and around. Caught up in survival rather than the abundant life God wants for us. In the olden days every merry-go-round had a brass ring suspended over one of the horses or in more modern times, a metal arm that swung out next to the carousel where multiple rings were dispensed as riders passed by and grabbed them. Most of them were made of iron but occasionally there would be a brass one. If you grabbed the brass ring you received a prize. Usually a free ride. (Which for me would be torture.) The brass ring is there to offer riders a chance at a prize. And it is a chance. As with any chance in life you have to take a bit of a risk in that you have to reach out and grab it. There’s the possibility you might fail or fall, how humiliating! But how exciting to achieve the prize. Makes it worth the risk. I like to think that on the merry-go-round of life God is our brass ring. As we go around and around, God is there at every turn waiting for us to reach out. He gives us constant recurring chances to grab him, to grab on to his promises of love, faithfulness, forgiveness, and care to name just a few. And the chance to win the ultimate prize of an abundant life now and eternal life to come. We have to snap out of our complacency and the trance we find ourselves in as we allow the repetitive din of the world’s pipe organ music that prevents us from hearing the divine invitation to...