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.

Mountain Miracles

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...

Unfolding to Life

Easter is right around the corner. I have fond memories of Easter past (see the picture), when I donned my white patent leather shoes with ankle socks, a pastel dress my mom made, and the ever-stylish white straw bonnet with ribbon accent. Oh the good old days. I can still hear my dad’s voice as he sang In Your Easter Bonnet from the Judy Garland/Bing Crosby movie Easter Parade while he waited for my sisters and brother and I to finish getting ready for church Easter morning. “In your Easter bonnet with all the frills upon it. You’ll be the grandest lady at the Easter Parade. “ But I’m getting ahead of myself. Easter is right around the corner but what a corner we have to get around first. Death, suffering, sadness, and grief before the promise of new life. We are about to start Holy Week. I feel blessed to have been “with you” this Lent. I have heard from many that you are reading these blogs so I do feel like I have traveled this year’s Lenten path with you. And for that I am really grateful. I cherish the support I will feel knowing we are heading into this somber week together in our love for Jesus. And the joy on Easter Sunday will be multiplied by each one of you. This week I would like to share a story I received in an email from Sister Gina who attends many of the events at Firstfruits when she can. She lives at the School Sisters of Notre Dame retirement home just a short walk from Firstfruits. Sr. Gina has struggled with hearing issues for quite some time and this year she made the decision to have a cochlear implant. As part of the process she was rendered “stone deaf”, as she put it for almost a month. She was in complete silence.  She said she felt God’s presence and a deep sense of trust. During that time she penned the following sentiments that are truly inspired and perfect to leave you with as we enter this Holiest of weeks. Blessings this week and always, Joan   UNFOLDING TO LIFE March and winter’s rigid and frigid fingers have let go to April and spring’s gentle and teasing breezes. Earth is warmed by glorious sunshine and responds with green patches of grass and the push-ups of crocus, tulip, and daffodil buds. Winter was a time of darkness in the soil, a time...

Bunnies and Nails

Once again, I am conflicted about this time of year. I’m a sucker for Easter décor. I’ll take a basket of eggs and grass over a fat Santa any day. I love the bright colors and the baby farm animals. So of course, when my daughter and I were shopping last week and I saw this kitchen towel (see picture), I had to have it. Too cute, don’t you think?  Or “kind of weird “ is more like it. However, it fits perfectly with my other decorations, which by the way are still in the basement. I have pulled the “Easter” bin off the shelf and opened the lid but just don’t feel right bringing out the bunnies and eggs just yet. This is where the conflict comes in.  It all started one Good Friday quite a few years ago. I was sitting at Good Friday service waiting for it to begin and an elderly woman came into the pew and walked right up to me and quietly asked me if I could move over because I was in her spot. For a brief nanosecond I was afraid of what was going to come out of my mouth but before I could roll my eyes or sarcastically ask her for proof of her ownership she said, “I grieve better in my spot.” I had never heard anyone talk about grieving the death of Jesus, like he was a family member or dear friend. I slid over physically and something in me slid over spiritually. That encounter had a powerful effect on me. I didn’t really know it at the time but it stuck with me and moved me another space on my path to knowing Jesus more intimately. I still can’t fully wrap my head around the immensity of the love He has for us and the depth of the sacrifice Jesus made for us because of that love. But I know He does and I know He did and now I grieve. These next few weeks are a bit more somber for me than they used to be. There is a thin pall over things, a touch of melancholy. Thus the conflict. But I remind myself the story doesn’t end on Good Friday. Alongside the nails, in the midst of the sorrow and pain there is the hope and promise of new life, of resurrection, of bunnies and colorful eggs. Think of Jesus as your friend....

Kill a Word

I’m moving a little slow today. I stayed up way past my usual 9:30 bedtime last night. My country music-loving husband took me to the Eric Church concert at the Fiserv Forum. He started at 8:30 so by 9:30 he was just warming up. It was so worth it though. He is an amazing entertainer. One of his hits, and one of my favorites is a song called Kill a Word. Loosely paraphrased the lyrics go something like this: If I could only kill a word, I would shoot “good bye,” poison “never,” beat “regret,” pound “fear,” choke “lonely,” hang “hate,” take “brokenness” out back, and break  “heartbreak.” If I could only kill a word. If I could kill a word, I would smack ”busyness” upside the head, stomp on it with my snakeskin boots then fling it in a dumpster. (Hmm…. I just might have a future in country music.) Seriously, it’s a word that does more damage than we realize. Somewhere along the line the world sold us a bill of goods that said that if we are not busy, if our calendar has a blank box on it, if we have time to read for pleasure, take a walk, or pray we are unproductive, unpopular, and unbelievably boring. And we bought it. As a result, we walk around anxious, depressed, and stressed out. We don’t allow ourselves the healing that comes from stillness. We’re too afraid of what that stillness might bring. What if it brings the answer? What if it brings Jesus? The closing song at mass today was Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling. The first verse is “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me; See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching, watching for you and for me.” Jesus enters our lives in a soft and tender way. Our job is to quiet ourselves long enough to hear him and have courage enough to let Him in. Kill the busyness in your life. Carve out some time in the rest of Lent for stillness and quiet. Don’t be afraid of it. If you are looking for other women to be still and quiet with, join us at Firstfruits on the evening of April 10 as Tammy Groszczyk, Catholic therapist and popular Firstfruits’ speaker enlightens us on how to find hope and peace as we navigate the busyness we find ourselves in. Invite a friend. Tell her you are out to kill busyness and become comfortable with stillness. If she...

The Wishing Well

The gospel today at mass was about the Samaritan woman meeting Jesus at the well. Such great take a ways from that story but today I was distracted by a very random thought that I blame on the fact that the last two houses we lived in were on well water. I got thinking about the fact that these women back in Jesus’ time drank water from a well with no iron curtain, water softener, or reverse osmosis system. No Culligan man. I wish I had that. Actually, I found myself wishing I had more of something else these women had. For the women in biblical times the well wasn’t just a place to get water. It was a gathering place for women. While fulfilling their daily tasks they were afforded the opportunity to be together, to talk, to listen, to laugh. It was the place to not only fill their buckets but also fill their souls with whatever they needed to go back home and live the challenges of their lives with hope. Hope is a powerful thing we can give each other. God wants us to live with a deep and abiding trust that He is in our situations. He promises. That gives us hope. But often we have to be reminded of that promise, especially when it is so hard to see. And often that reminder comes from others who God puts in our lives. The catch is that unless we are willing to admit we have challenges, that we need a good dose of hope, the message those people God has put in our lives to remind us of His promise remains undelivered. We end up carrying our cross in isolation and loneliness. I wish that weren’t true. And we all have a cross we carry. It’s so much lighter when we share it with others. This became evident in a powerful discussion we had at Firstfruits following Mary’s Way of the Cross last week. After reflecting on the Stations of the Cross through Mary’s eyes, we were moved to a very raw and real conversation about the crosses we all carry and the need to share those crosses with others we can trust and feel safe with. This led to talk of an offering at Firstfruits in the future that would address this need. A vision of Firstfruits as our “well.” I’ll keep you posted. Spring is right around the corner....

You Complete Me

One of my favorite movies is Jerry Maguire. There is one scene that the hopeless romantic in me couldn’t get enough of. Toward the end of the movie, Tom Cruise comes to his senses and realizes he is in love with Renee Zellweger and comes to her house to sweep her off her feet. It used to make me swoon years ago. I now know a truth that makes me cringe when I see this scene. In his emotional confession of his love for her, he utters three words that I now know are responsible for much heartache, misunderstanding, and disillusionment.  He says, “You complete me.” How wonderful I used to think it would be to have another human being think of me in that way. My poor husband has bore the brunt of my misguided romantic desire. Needless to say, he has never told me that I complete him. He may have uttered something like “You deplete me.” Or “Could you feed me?” but nothing ever coming close to making me feel that I have filled his deepest void. And you know what? That is ok. Because no other human being can fill the void that only God can fill. No other human being can complete us. Our heartache, misunderstanding, and disillusionment comes when we don’t accept that and we beat our heads against the wall trying to fill that God shaped void with anything other than God. Whether that be a spouse, friend, family member, or casual acquaintance. All that does is bring sadness, loneliness, frustration, and despair into our lives. Every morning I read a daily “conversation” from Jesus in Sarah Young’s book Jesus Calling. In one of the daily readings from last week, I came across a sentence that really touched me. In this particular conversation Jesus says: “Find your completeness in Me so you can help others without using them to meet your own needs.” There is a deep truth in this that we don’t like to admit. How often do we look to others to complete us, to fill that God shaped void? Instead of being free to love others and help others, we use others to get what we need. Imagine if our needs were met. How easy it would be to freely love. To love as we are asked to love. In God’s perfect plan He gives us all we need. He longs to meet our needs. He wants...