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.

Listening. Learning. Loving.

After two weeks of dialogues on racism at Firstfruit’s Well Time series it has become clear that there is a lot of work to be done to heal the wound of this evil. That work begins with each one of us. Firstfruits is committed to helping us do this work. It begins with a commitment to listening and learning which are the first steps to the conversion of heart that needs to happen so that all receive the love that God intends. Firstfruits normally doesn’t offer series in the summer but this is too important to delay. I hope you can join us for one of our Listening. Learning. Loving.-Conversations on Racism series in the months of July-August. In this four-week series we will be studying the USCCB (Untied States Conference of Catholic Bishops) pastoral letter against racism entitled Open Wide Our Hearts.  In this 2018 letter “We are called to open our minds and hearts to Christ’s love for all people and to experiences of those who have been harmed by the evil of racism.” We will offer the series in two formats. Courtyard Conversations on Racism where we will gather outside in the beautiful courtyard at Firstfruits on four Tuesday mornings from 9:30-11:00am. If you are looking to get out of the house and away from the Zoom screen, this is for you! Be sure to bring a lawn chair and your own refreshments. Please bring a mask also. (We will have some new and very stylish “Kiwi themed masks” you can purchase if you forget!) We will have to limit the size of the group so be sure to sign up early! For details and to register go online at Firstfruits.info/Events or contact Joan Carey at . Zoom Conversations on Racism will be available also. The series will run for four Tuesday afternoons from 12:30-1:30pm. The Zoom group is limited to 20. So sign up early! For details and to register go online at Firstfruits.info/Events or contact Joan Carey at . I look forward to doing this work with you. I am convinced change can happen and it happens one heart at time. Or in the very familiar words of a hymn that was sung at our wedding forty years ago…Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me! Joan...

New Eyes

Normal visual acuity, that is clarity and sharpness of vision, is considered 20/20 vision. You see clearly what should normally be seen clearly from a measured distance. The normal way we view the world has been challenged the last few months. Our eyes have been opened to new perspectives. First, with the drastic changes in our routines brought on by the Coronavirus, we have been forced to see the world and our particular place in it very differently. We have begun to reprioritize. Perhaps we have become more keenly aware of the blessings we have and see more clearly, and with greater empathy, the needs of others. Second, and more recently, our eyes have been opened to a different kind of “virus” called racism that has spread quietly for years. Mostly unnoticed, this kind of infection is deadly to God’s plan of unity, justice and peace for all. Ironic that these events, that are opening our eyes and hopefully bringing a clarity and sharpening of vision, are happening in 2020? I think not. God is calling us to clearer vision in many areas. Each one of us has been given an opportunity to awaken and to change. To find clarity in how we view our relationship to our world, to each other, and to God. Any change we want to see in our world has to start with us. That was one of the powerful takeaways from our Well Time* dialogue on racism with Terry Gardner-Smith and her son Arthur Smith last week. Our eyes were opened to the need to acknowledge that change starts with awareness and the ability to admit our own part. That awareness leads to empathy, which leads to a new vision, which ultimately leads to action. As black author Austin Channing Brown states “The work of anti-racism is to become a better human to other humans.” So simple. But in order to do this, hearts need to be transformed, and only God can accomplish that. In the 2018 United States Council of Catholic Bishops pastoral letter on racism entitled Open Wide Our Hearts it states, “What is needed and what we are calling for, is a genuine conversion of heart, a conversion that will compel change and the reform of our institutions and society. Conversion is a long road to travel for the individual. Moving our nation to a full realization of the promise of liberty, equality, and justice for all is...

A Powerful Love

Last Sunday was Pentecost Sunday when we recall the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and the beginning of the church. When this imperfect, yet committed and passionate band of followers were called and gifted by the Holy Spirit to begin to spread the good news of redemption, hope, and unity in Christ to the world. The church’s work of building the kingdom here on Earth began then and continues to this day. That could only have happened through the power of the Holy Spirit. That same power is available to each and every one of us. No joke. Who or what exactly is the Holy Spirit to you? How do you relate to this mysterious member of the Holy Trinity? Historically depicted as a dove, the wind, or tongues of fire makes it hard to relate to the Holy Spirit, therefore it’s often undetected and ignored in our lives. The best explanation I have heard is that the Holy Spirit is the expression of the love between the Father and the Son. That love is so immense and so powerful. That love powers the world and that love is in us. Through the sacramental grace of Baptism and Confirmation we have been given the in-dwelling Holy Spirit and the potential to spread this powerful love to the world. That powerful love animates our faith. It prompts us to bring our faith to life, to act on and not just rest in God’s love and provision. That powerful love informs our passions and prompts us to action when we see injustice and suffering. Our responsibility is to be aware and respond to the promptings. I have grown increasingly aware of the Holy Spirit prompting me personally and Firstfruits collectively to a greater awareness and a call to action relating to the issue of racism. The culmination of these promptings came last Wednesday as I was preparing to start our weekly Zoom session of Well Time. An hour before we were to start, one of our Firstfruits participants and her son accepted our invitation to lead the discussion that day on their experiences and insights as a black woman and a black man. The dialogue was rich, honest, and real. Which meant at times it was a bit uncomfortable but we became aware that the discomfort is key to the growth in understanding and unity. Those of us who were part of this came away wanting more. We sensed...

My Deer Old Dad

In my last blog I talked about the importance of learning how to just be. I mentioned that Jesus invites us to sit at his feet and just be and often those invitations come through the simple moments of our everyday lives. Like when I saw three deer outside my bedroom window. So if three deer outside my bedroom window are an invitation from Jesus, what is the birth of a baby fawn next to my deck? (See the above picture) It was just one of the God gifts I received that day. Gifts from the Father through my father. You see, whenever I spot a deer, it reminds me of my dad. I grew up in a house with a screened-in porch that overlooked a forest preserve. My dad’s favorite thing to do was sit in the screened-in porch and watch the Cubs games. And he would get all excited when a deer would wander into the yard. After my dad died we sold the house. My mom and I were in the backyard saying our last goodbyes when three deer showed up. They were spaced evenly across the width of the yard and looking right at us. Then, as if on cue, they all slowly moved on. My mom and I both felt the same thing, the presence of my dad and affirmation that it was time for us to do the same. Over the years since my dad died, I have had numerous deer encounters. They often happen at times when I am emotionally teetering and could use a good reminder of the power of faith. My dad’s life was a reminder of the power of faith. He never missed a Sunday mass and we buried him with his well-worn rosary in his suit pocket, just where it always was. With few words he made it clear, there is nothing more important than your faith. So this week, when my husband texted me that a newborn fawn was laying under our deck, I wasn’t all that surprised. Especially in light of what happened earlier that same day. Our granddaughter and I were on a nature walk in our old neighborhood. We passed the spot where a beautiful bright pink crabapple tree was planted by my friends twenty-one years ago as a memorial to my dad. I glanced at the branches to see if by some slim chance the metal tag with his name...

Just Be

All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.                                     Blaise Pascal I came across this quote from seventeen century Catholic theologian Blaise Pascal and it really stopped me in my tracks. So simply true. The happenings of the last few months have been unsettling for many not just because of the fear of getting the Corona virus but also the anxiety that comes from social isolation and down time. The degree to which we can handle quiet, unstructured time varies greatly. Some of us handle quiet time alone with more grace than others. What is it about the quiet that disturbs us? What is it about being alone with our thoughts that causes us to avoid it at all costs? Who or what made us feel that just “being” is uncool, unproductive, and undesirable? Why do we make endless “To Do” lists but never “To Be” lists? That was the homework today from the daily morning reflection I was listening to: to make a “To Be” list. A daily list of how you would like to be or who you would like to be. Then ask for God’s help. And at the end of the day see how much of your list you were able to check off. We were reminded during the reflection, of the story of Martha and her sister, Mary, in the gospel of Luke. Mary chose to just be at Jesus feet listening to him speak while Martha was “anxious and worried about many things.” Jesus said to Martha, “There is need of only one thing.” And pointed out that Mary has chosen that one thing; to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen. Are we being called to just be at the feet of Jesus these days? Could this time of limited social activities and quiet time be a beckoning to the feet of Jesus, a beckoning to an encounter with Jesus? Maybe that’s why it so hard. Jesus longs to reveal himself to us and usually through the simple moments of our everyday life. Like when three deer come into view as you gaze out the window. If we can become more comfortable with stillness, the loosening of our schedules, and the forced return to a simpler life, we just might find ourselves in a place to hear Jesus speak to us. What would he say to you today? Joan...

Chances

In an effort to shine a positive light on the events of the last couple months I would like to pose a question. What if our world was turned upside down for a reason? What if these events are affording us a once in a lifetime chance? One of my new favorite children’s books is Kobi Yamada’s What Do You Do With a Chance? In the book he describes the adventure of a little boy who encounters some remarkable chances but doesn’t quite know what to do with them. The more they come around, the more his fascination grows. Then one day, with a little courage he takes a chance and it makes all the difference. On the inside flap of the book it also says “This is a story for anyone, at any age, who has ever wanted something but was afraid of risking too much to get it. It’s a story to inspire you. To embrace the chances that come into your life. Because you never know when a chance, once taken, might be the one to change everything.” Regardless of your view on how and why this pandemic started, whether you lean to a more spiritual and philosophical reason or a scientific reason or a political reason, it’s hard to argue the fact that it has the potential to have a permanent and lasting effect on all of us. If we let it. I’ve heard from many people that in their quiet time they have come to the conclusion that they don’t necessarily want things to return to the way they were. One person put it this way, she said “I need a remodel of my soul.” Now is the time. Could your relationships use a fresh coat of paint? Could some of your old thoughts, actions, and attitudes be updated? Any emotional or spiritual walls you’ve put up that need to come down to make a more spacious room for God?  Now is your chance. What do you do with a chance? Joan Note: In this quiet time it has become clear that God is giving Firstfruits a chance. A chance to join and support more women on their unique paths to a meaningful, lived faith. We have been visioning and discerning just what that will look like and we could use your help. For the next few months I invite you to share your thoughts on the topics I will be presenting in my blogs in...

Spring Routines

I have been watching this tree outside my window bud for the last month, literally. It’s outside my morning prayer spot. I have never had the time, or should I say, taken the time, to daily watch the progression of a budding tree before the pandemic hit. There’s a silver lining. I am amazed at how within each individual small bud that is emerging there are so many tiny green sprouts that will become part of a bundle of leaves so thick they will completely cover my view of the landscape behind them. The gift of God’s creativity and comfort shines in this annual routine. And the birds that come and sit periodically in the tree are amazing. They take me by surprise when they do. I try to stay real still so they don’t leave. The branches are so close to the window I really do have a birds-eye view. Pardon the pun. The robins building nests and the woodpeckers pecking wood. I never realized how busy Spring is in it’s predictable routines. There is an office building not too far off in the distance and every day the same cars with the same people show up. In fact I could set my clock by their arrival. I feel like I have gotten to know them. There is the woman with the yellow jacket that gets out of her red mini van and the gentleman who gets out of the white car and empties what is left of his coffee in the grass then grabs his jacket and lunch from the back seat. Same thing every day, a comforting routine. Anyone who has been around children knows how routine is so important for their well-being and those around them. There is something so comforting about routine. We never outgrow that desire and that craving for routine. That is why, when our routine gets disrupted, things can get ugly. We are all learning these past months just how fragile our routines are. How quickly they can be disrupted and how easily we can become disoriented when they do. The thing about routines is that it gives us some semblance of order, predictability, and sameness and that allows us to trust and feel at peace that things are as they should be. We find comfort in that sameness. Now more than ever we need to find our new sense of sameness. Look to nature this Spring. Let its predictability remind you...

No More Wonder Woman

The first step in the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous says: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol-that our lives had become unmanageable When you talk to anyone in a twelve-step program, they say that this first step is one of the hardest. Who wants to admit they are powerless? Who wants to admit they can’t manage life? It’s those confessions that keep many from recovery. But it’s the place they have to start in order to heal. Admitting powerlessness is the key that unlocks the process. It’s the obstacle that needs to be surmounted in order to know healing, serenity, and the ever-present love of a Higher Power. We had our first Firstfruits Well Time session on Zoom this past Wednesday morning. Over thirty women joined us as we shared our fears, our concerns, and our hope. After the session one of the participants sent me an email with a reflection by Henri Nouwen. I want to share it with you. Obstacles to God’s Love by Henri Nouwen What keeps us from opening to the reality of the world? Could it be that we cannot accept our powerlessness and are only willing to see those wounds that we can heal? Could it be that we don’t want to give up our illusion that we are masters over our world and, therefore, create our own Disneyland where we can make ourselves believe that all events of life are safely under control? Could it be that our blindness and deafness are signs of our own resistance to acknowledging that we are not the Lord of the Universe? It is hard to allow these questions to go beyond the level of rhetoric and to really sense in our innermost self how much we resent our powerlessness. I have a hard time accepting my powerlessness. How about you? Until we can accept that powerlessness as reality, we can’t know fully the love God has for us. It’s in the laying down of our swords that we let in the love and provision that God has waiting for us. Our need to feel in control is one of the biggest obstacles to experience healing, serenity, and the ever-present love of our God. Take that first step I quoted earlier and replace “alcohol” with a blank. Then fill in the blank for yourself. What do you need to admit you are powerless over? Really powerless. Where do you think you have control...

Easter?

Today is Easter Sunday. Normally, there is such a sense of relief and joy associated with this day. We’ve made it through another Lent with all it’s deprivations, somber tones, and sadness. We are able to look back on the last weeks with gratitude as a time of discipline, deep cleaning of our souls, and determination to bring new life to our lives. But that is just it, we can look back, it's over, and we can look forward to a newness, to a second chance at being our best. With the first sound of the trumpet, the smell of the lilies, and the shouts of Alleluia, we can rejoice reminded that Jesus is risen and once again in his right place with the Father. That the incomprehensible love of God through the suffering of Jesus has provided for us the hope and assurance of our right place. This Easter is different. I don’t feel that usual sense of relief, sense of joy, sense of newness. There is a subtle yet unmistakable feeling of disquiet. Nothing feels like it has changed. We are still stuck in this time of deprivations, somber tones, and sadness. I feel like I’m faking it as I fill the plastic eggs with jellybeans for the socially distanced Easter egg hunt with the grandkids today. I feel like I was going through the motions as I watched services for the Triduum on my iPad. But then I realize that is how the virus has infected me. I might not be physically sick, but spiritually I have let it zap me, and I need to fight that. The world right now is telling me a somber story, but my faith is telling me a very different story. And it’s that story I need to listen to. Especially today. This Easter is very different by worldly standards, but nothing can take away the significance and the beauty of this joyful day. The promise the empty tomb brings can’t be wiped out by anything. That is Easter joy! May you and those you love feel God’s presence in a new and deeper way this Easter. Joan...

The Lazy River

This week I finally sent the email canceling our family trip we had planned for the end of May. To celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary we were going to take our three adult children and their spouses on a tropical vacation. The resort we were going to boasts of the largest and longest Lazy River ride in the world. As the reality of winter in Wisconsin was bearing down hard these last months, I would close my eyes and just picture myself on one of those big inner tubes floating down the lazy river with the sun kissing my face. Not a care in the world. Just letting the movement of the water take me wherever I needed to go. Total peace. That lazy river will have to wait. But I seem to have found myself in another lazy river of a very different kind. During this third week of social distancing I have found myself surrendering. I’m waving the white flag. I feel as though I have settled into it a bit. I have come to the realization I can’t wish this nightmare away, I can’t worry it away, I can’t eat it away, and I can’t control it away. It is here to stay, for now. What I must do is accept that reality. I had gotten tired of the undercurrent of anxiety and the battle to fight it. Instead of fighting the current, I decided to settle into it. To let it win. I’ve entered God’s lazy river ride. It’s calling me. I’m going to let the movement of these unchartered waters take me where I need to go. Take me to places where God knows I need to go. I have to trust, be open, and be content. Lay back and go with the movements. It’s so much more peaceful than the fight. I have to admit, I do still stick my leg out once in a while to try and touch the wall and feel like I am in control again, but soon realize it’s pointless. As we begin this holiest of weeks in this craziest of times, settle into this lazy river of God’s complete and perfect love for you. Sit back, relax, and let him take you where it is you need to go with him. On this ride to Easter, let him show you sights you may never have seen before and draw you closer than you ever imagined. Let...