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.

143

I once bought a box of Conversation Heart candies and on one of the candies was the number 143. I thought it was a typo. I have come to learn that it stands for I Love You. “I” being one letter, “Love” being four letters, and “You” being three letters. Someone had a lot of time on his or her hands to come up with that. Couldn’t it also mean “I can’t run” or “A ripe pea?” All sorts of things. I like to think it refers to a verse in the bible, John 14:3, the ultimate valentine message. (Go look it up.) I thought of this because it’s that time of year again, the very pink and red time of year. It’s supposed to be all about love and romance and heartwarming sentiments but let’s face it, Valentine’s Day can be heart crushing too. I remember my days in college when I lived in the dorms and I’d walk past the front desk and see all the floral arrangements that were delivered from boyfriends far away and alas, none had my name on them. More recently, my practical husband and I decided to stop with the cards and the last-minute stop at the gas station for flowers on the way home from work. Because after thirty-eight years, we’ve said “I love you” in as many ways as possible (whether we meant it that day or not) and heck, every day is Valentine’s Day right? (Note the sarcasm in my typing.) The heart is a mysterious thing. It’s a very powerful thing, but at the same time it can so easily be crushed. It holds our deepest desires, our dreams, and our passions, but so often keeps them hidden under doubts, fears, and insecurities. The heart seems to have ears and it can easily respond more quickly to the world’s voice rather than the Creators voice unless we train it. The feminine and the masculine heart are very different. They both however were created to reflect the image and likeness of God. They are designed to bring life not only physically to our bodies but emotionally and spiritually to our souls, if we allow them to, if we awaken them. This Lent, at Firstfruits, we have an amazing series for men and women called Awaken Your Heart’s True Desire. Carol and Tom Sullivan will take us on a journey of discovery through the book Wild at...

Church to Each Other

I woke up this morning and, as usual, I asked my Google Home to tell me what the temperature was outside. She said, “The temperature in Elm Grove is 0 degrees.” I was actually excited to hear that. I saw the light at the end of the polar vortex! Which is coming none too soon for my husband and I. After this past week I think they should reword the traditional wedding vows to read “I take you for better, for worse, for rich, or for poor, in sickness and in health, and during polar vortexes, ‘til death do we part.” This stretch of record setting cold coincided with the tail end of my husband’s recuperation time following surgery right before Christmas. He goes back to work next week. So we had the opportunity to experience what it would be like if we lived in the Antarctic and he retired. Now his retirement in Wisconsin doesn’t scare me so much. It can’t possibly be as bad as the last couple days...

The “L” Word

I was happy to see that the high temperature for today was going to be minus seven. It gave me an excuse to sit in the warmth of the sunspot at my kitchen table for a bit longer than usual this morning. In that extra time my mind wandered to thoughts of the amazing women I was gifted to spend time with at the mini-retreat at Firstfruits last week. And the powerful messages the Holy Spirit whispered to all of us. Different messages for different needs. That is the beauty of the Holy Spirit. When we open ourselves to the movement of the Spirit in our lives, when we slow down enough to hear the whispers, and have the faith to believe what we hear, our lives are so much better. There was a common theme, a somewhat universal need that I heard in many of the conversations I had at the retreat. One word I heard numerous times: The "L" word. Not lack of sleep, labor stories, or liposuction. It was loneliness. You don’t have to be alone to feel lonely. How often married women feel lonely. Moms with a bustling household of little ones feel lonely. A widow surrounded by family and friends on the holiday can feel lonely. Everyone has experienced loneliness, myself included, but we don’t casually admit it. Why don’t we admit when we are lonely? Because to admit you’re lonely feels like you are telling the whole world what a loser you are. As if loneliness is something we have control over and should be able to avoid. If only we were friendlier, we’d have people clamoring for our time. If we had more interests and imagination, we could fill our lives with fun and exciting things. If we were busier, we wouldn’t have time to be lonely. So then we get too busy. Carol Sullivan, gave a presentation based on Henri Nouwen’s book Can You Drink The Cup? at the mini-retreat. In it she reminded us of the importance of lifting our cup of life with both its joys and its sorrows, with others, in celebration, as a gift from God. Celebrating life together with a community is essential to the spiritual life and to our healing. We are healed by not hiding our joys and sorrows from each other. It is so important for women to find a safe, comfortable place to do just that. It brought a...

Just Do It

God has determined, unless I interfere with his plan that I should reach that which is my greatest happiness. John Henry Cardinal Newman If you have ever been to Firstfruits you have seen this quote on a black foam board outside the entrance to our Elm Grove space. I see it often. In fact, so often that I don’t really see it anymore. Kind of like the dust bunnies under the couch and the cobwebs in the corners of most of our rooms at home. Last week for some reason as I was unlocking the front door at Firstfruits, I glanced up at the quote and it really grabbed my attention. Read it again and really let this promise sink in. God has determined that you should reach that which is your greatest happiness.  Aren’t we all searching for happiness? Often in the wrong places and from the wrong people. True happiness comes from a relationship with God. He has a plan that will bring us to our greatest happiness this side of eternity with Him. The key words, and what really struck me last week, was the “unless I interfere” part. Often, we think of interference as an action, something we do that is an obstacle, but it can also come from something we don’t do. The interference can come from failing to act on something. Like a prompting or restlessness calling us to discern and use our God given gifts. Did you know that by virtue of our baptism we have all been given a mission by God? That mission is to bring His goodness and love to the world. That mission is universal. The way in which we are called to carry out that mission and to whom we are called to bring His goodness and love to is as varied as there are people on this planet. God has uniquely gifted each of us for this mission and brings the people and situations to our lives that need our gifts. Our job is to discern those gifts and be open to using them as we are called to use them. That is how we bring God’s goodness and love to the world and great happiness and joy to our own lives. Because the gifts we have been given and the unique “work” we are called to are perfect for us. More perfect than we could think up ourselves because they are given to us by...

Winter Blues

I’m feeling a little blue. How are you? Are you feeling a little blue too? Sounds like the introduction to a depressing Dr. Seuss book. This time of year can tend to be a bit depressing. Although this year we can’t blame it on the snow. The holidays are over. We’re back to eating Oreos instead of delicately frosted cut out cookies. No more “Feliz Navidad” playing on the radio. (Actually that is a good thing.) And the leftover fruitcakes are hardening on the 75% off shelf at the grocery store. (As if they could get any harder.) The homes around me look sad and bare with all the Christmas decorations removed. The poor Christmas trees that just weeks ago were the center of attention covered in lights and festive ornaments lie abandoned and naked on every curb. (There I go again, anthropomorphing. See my blog from two weeks ago for details.) I’ve noticed that more and more people have disappeared from my exercise class and my neighborhood. Only to reappear around late April, early May very refreshed and suspiciously darker in skin color. Winter, it’s that in-between time. The time when things are laying fallow, waiting for the Creator’s annual promise of birth and newness. When what was is no longer and what is to come is unseen. It’s during these times that much is happening even though it looks the opposite. In the cycle of much of creation, lying dormant for a time is essential to life. The same is true for our spiritual life. During the fallow times we are called to rest, to quiet, to trust, and to hope. We are encouraged to look for and listen for the ways God is drawing us to a replenishing relationship with Him during this quiet time of year. With less distractions we might just hear and see Him more clearly. Enjoy this stark, bare, quiet time of year to lay dormant with the Lord. Carve out time to rest in the inactivity. Let the otherwise gloomy, grey of the season remind you of the necessity of stillness and the promise of newness to come. When you need some company to shake off the winter blues I hope you will join us at Firstfruits. The next couple months are filled with great opportunities to come to know God and His deep love for you. See Firstfruits.info for details. What could be better to chase away the winter blues? Stale...

The Etch-a-Sketch

This time of year reminds me of one of my favorite childhood toys, the Etch–a-Sketch. I had a love/hate relationship with my Etch-a-Sketch. I found it fascinating to try to draw an accurate depiction of anything other than a square or rectangle. Trying to make a perfect circle drove me insane, but I kept trying. When it got to be too much, I would take out my frustrations by just turning it upside down and shaking the daylights out of it. Then, I would start the process all over again. Resolve, determination, failure, frustration, repeat. With the turning of the calendar page last week we’ve begun a new year. Out with the old and in with the new. We can shake the daylights out of the picture we were in and resolve to start anew. With resolutions we often end up like I did with my Etch–a-Sketch, in failure and frustration unless we invite a power greater than ourselves into our picture making. When we resolve to let God lead our hands (and everything else) it becomes more of an evolution than a resolution, a slow process of creation in partnership with the One who knows the twists and turns that are necessary to shape the life He has intended for us. Eating less, exercising more. Spending less, giving more. Showing up on time, calling your mother-in-law more often, and cleaning the top of the refrigerator on a regular basis are all honorable resolutions. But I challenge you as I challenge myself to a deeper New Year’s evolution. Prayerfully consider what God might be calling you to work on, with Him, these next twelve months. Is He calling you to meet Him through the study of His word? Come join us for Weekly Word on Monday mornings. Is He urging you to take time away from the busyness and be still? Come join us for a mini-retreat on January 23. Is He showing himself to you in a restlessness that isn’t going away? A nagging feeling that there is more to life? A feeling that there is a deeper purpose for your life? Come join us for the Called and Gifted Workshop starting February 5 on Tuesday mornings or Saturday mornings. Resolve to evolve this new year. Listen to the promptings and act on them. Shake off the excuses, come to God with a clean slate, and join Him as He etches and sketches the abundant life He has waiting for...

Good Bye Old Friend

Anthropomorphism is a term that means attributing human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities. I have found myself indulging in anthropomorphistic behavior of late. Only I have attributed human emotions to an inanimate object, my circa 1980 Sunbeam Mixmaster hand mixer. Let me explain. As I was contemplating the upcoming holiday baking season, I decided that it was time to get a new hand mixer. The one I currently have was a wedding gift from my parents’ good friends, Ruth and Gene.  Ruth was a great cook. Unfortunately, that skill didn’t come with the mixer. It’s a simple mixer really: only three speeds, no retractable cord, and one set of beaters. But it does the trick. I just felt like I deserved a new one. I put it on my Christmas list being too cheap to just go buy myself one. Yesterday, I was at my daughter’s house. She went down in her basement, came up with a box, and handed it to me. It was a brand-new Oster hand mixer that she had, along with some other unused wedding gifts, collecting dust. She patted me on the back and said “Merry Christmas.” So, today, I was all set to use my new six-speed, ergonomically designed, retractable cord mixer with four different beaters. There is a dough hook, whisk, drink rod (whatever that is), and the beaters I recognized. I was excited to start the holiday baking. Then, it happened. I went to take my old mixer out of the drawer to throw it away and a wave of anthropomorphism came over me. I thought my old mixer must feel a twinge of sadness. Or was it me? I couldn’t just discard it. I was flooded with memories of the times I spent with that mixer over the last 38 years. Looking at the crusted-on flour on the handle and chocolate stains on the non-retractable cord, it brought back such good memories. The mash potatoes I used to make as a newlywed trying to compete with my new mother-in-law for best cook award in my husband’s eyes. The birthday celebrations of our kids and cupcakes I made for them to take to school on their birthdays until the teachers outlawed cupcakes for being too messy. The banana muffins, the banana muffins, the banana muffins I would be forced to make when our bananas went black and my frugal husband would say “Looks like WE should make some banana...

Birth

Congratulations are in order. My son-in-law’s cousin and her husband had a baby girl last week. You may have heard about them. It was all over the news. Mom delivered baby Layla in their car in the parking lot of the Country Inn on Moreland and Greenfield Ave! Unusual circumstances providing a beautiful new life for one family. As we enter into the Advent season this week, it reminds me of the birth of another baby under somewhat unusual circumstances. No parking lot, no car, no 911 call announcing the arrival. Just a stable, a manger, and a star. Unusual circumstances providing a beautiful new life whose sole purpose was to bring new life to all who would believe. Do you ever wonder what your sole purpose is? Why you were born? Try asking Siri that question next time she asks what she can help you with. ? I’m old enough to remember the Baltimore Catechism classes we had in grade school. It consisted of a series of questions about the Catholic faith and we were required to memorize the answers. That’s actually half true, I am old enough but I don’t remember much except for one of the questions that has stayed with me. It has had a profound effect on my life. The question was “Why were you born?”  The answer: To know, love, and serve God in this life and be with Him for eternity in the next. Boom, bang, drop the microphone! Need I say more. If you’ve ever wondered why you were born, there it is in a nutshell. Nothing else should matter. If we spend our lives getting to know God, living in right relationship with Him, opening ourselves up to His immense love, mirroring that love to others, and discerning our gifts and where we are being called to serve with those gifts, we are living our sole purpose. So often I hear people talk about their desire to find purpose and how unsettling and scary it can be at those times in life when the purpose they were functioning under becomes blurred or pulled out from under them. A good portion of our sense of security and well-being comes from a solid feeling of purpose. When that is shaken, we are shaken. We need to keep our sights set on that sole purpose, on why we were born. That is where we find God, the ultimate security...

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...