Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last Day

a poem written by Grace Murphy, Cindy Raymond, and Mereesa Whitney

"Last Day"

Try to praise the streets that you've walked.
Remember your last day using
And how lost you were.
You must praise where you've been and where you're going.

Try to praise your feet hurting.
Remember the blisters on your feet
And the angel that guided you.
You must praise the good that's come into your life.

You've seen the light that shines in your heart.
You've heard the sounds of birds and life.
You should praise the joy that you are in.
Praise comes from within.

And as the sun shines on your face
And you start a new day, remember you're
A miracle that God saved.
Remember your last day.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Nashville Public Radio Feature

The Find Your Way Home Prison Tour has gotten some well-deserved attention recently and was featured on WPLN, Nashville's NPR affiliate. Click HERE to read the full story!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Principle 23: Find Your Way Home

All our journeys begin and end with God.

We are finding our way on this path toward wholeness and love.

We are helping one another find our way home
from places as close as five miles and as far as twenty years.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Blessings

Thistle Farms and the Magdalene community
would like to wish everyone
a very peaceful and loving Christmas.
And to remind everyone that
you are never so lost
that you can't find your way home.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Blog Notarity

We've been blessed to get some acknowledgement on a few blogs and have even had a couple of stories featuring some of our fabulous ladies published!

Check out: Woman Day By Day for an insight on what it's like to work in an all-female environment. Our own Terry tells some of the pluses and minuses to this unique work environment.

Our sweet sister, Grace's story of healing was featured on Heal My PTSD. In this candid interview, Grace describes how, through her art and therapy, she was able to deal with the traumatic events of her life and how now, even recently diagnosed with lung cancer, she believes that God is taking care of her, each step of the way.

Also, we want to thank a few people that have been so supportive by either mentioning us on their blog / twitter page, adding the donation button to their home page, participating in our blog tour or simply keeping us in their prayers!

Just a few to mention (click on the links to see their stories about Thistle Farms!) are:

Thanks to everyone else not listed... and please drop us a note if you've mentioned us! We'd love to know how you're spreading the love of Magdalane in your world and around the internet.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Principle 22: Pray For Courage

We pray for the ability to hear God’s voice
and know God’s will for our lives.

We pray for the courage to walk the path of faith
that had been set before us.

It is good to listen to God’s call.
It is good to pray for God’s vision.
It is even better to pray for the courage
to live it out
for the rest of our lives.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Help Portrait Day

On December 12th, photographers united to use their time, skills, and equipment to give back to their community though the worldwide event, Help-Portrait. The goal of Help-Portrait is simple:
1. Find someone in need
2. Take their portrait
3. Print their portrait
4. Deliver their portrait.

Though seemingly ordinary to most, some people in need have never even imagined having their portrait made. "The idea is that a photographer has the unique ability to help someone smile, laugh and return their dignity," says Jeremy Cowart, celebrity photographer, Help-Portrait founder and local Nashvillian.

The women of the Magdalene program were fortunate enough to be chosen as one of the organizations that the Help-Portrait movement benefited. Susan Walker, who organized the event at our main community house, invited some of her friends and colleagues, Mary Claire Crowe, Rachel Paul and Matt Muller to share their gift of photography. Also on hand to share their gift of makeup artistry were Loretta Brank and Katie Wells.

Some behind the scene shots from the day:








And Nashville's own ABC affiliate, WKRN, was on hand to capture some of the transformations that were happening in front of the camera. Here is the piece that aired on Ch. 2 that night and can also be seen on Thistle Farms' YouTube channel.

Thanks so much to the photographers and makeup artists who shared their warmth with us on a cold December day.

(story and behind the scenes photos by Carolyn Snell)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Presenting Penny

Penny’s heritage is German, Irish and Cherokee Indian. She laughs when she says, “I liked to fight and drink!” Penny started drinking at a very young age, helped by the fact that her father owned and her mother worked at bars. Penny and her boyfriend lived in public housing and grew and sold marijuana. Penny’s day to day life was comprised of drinking, taking pills and smoking pot, plus raising her three boys, Jason, Joseph & Jonathan. Penny tried to get away from the scene by moving to Florida with her family. But after 3 years, Penny returned to the same projects in Nashville where the cycle continued.

She tried rehab once, but it didn’t work. She gave her children to family members and lived on the streets, calling the underside of a bridge home.
Arrested multiple times for public intoxication, trespassing, DUIs, prostitution and possession of drug paraphernalia, a judge told her he was going to lock her up for good if she didn’t get herself together.

“I was sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Penny explains as the reason for entering the Magdalene Program. While in a 45-day, in-patient program at the Elam Lloyd Mental Health Treatment Center, she heard about Magdalene, and providentially the community was able to offer her a bed the day she was released.

Penny has been in Magdalene for almost a year and started working at Thistle Farms in May 2009. She has a tutor once a week, preparing her for the GED to receive a high school diploma, and is taking computer classes at Belmont University. She explains that the Magdalene program is so successful because it offers a full range of benefits.

“The Magdalene staff is nice, and because we are trusted, we don’t have anyone overseeing us in our houses. Everyone is treated as an individual. The whole group is not punished if one person makes a mistake. Our medical and dental needs are met. We receive help with our credit report and bills. Everything is covered for us: hygiene, clothing, bedding, appointments—even bus passes.”

Penny is proud of herself and offers these words of wisdom to new women coming into the Magdalene program: “Sit down, be still and remember. It’s a lot better here than on the streets. You have a chance to make it!”

Written and photographed by Carolyn Snell.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Principle 21: Stay On Point

When we get busy with many distractions,
it is easy to ignore our weaknesses and lose our focus of trying to live
a clean and healthy life.

We are connected to God and to our neighbors and ourselves
when we are on point.

We know that we are our sisters’ keepers
and want to serve one another well.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Gift of Music

Though we always need and appreciate all the monetary contributions given to Magdalene / Thistle Farms, there are other ways you can donate. Alison from Brentwood wanted to give the gift of music to the ladies of the program, by donating her upright piano. It was such a kind gesture, yet getting a piano moved properly is no easy feat. Luckily, our friends at Soundcheck offered to pick it up from Alison and move it into the main residential house in North Nashville.

We are so grateful to Alison, Ben, Case, Mikee, Gino, Patrick and William for making this possible!

Below are some photos from the move. Next on the list is finding a piano tuner to share his/her gift with us. Please contact if you can help! Even without money, there's always a way to give.

The Soundcheck truck pulls up to the Lena house and the guys figure out the best way to get it out & in.

Looks like carrying it off the truck and up six stairs is the way to go!

Last move into the meeting room, which is used by all residents of the program.

Tah-dah! The piano is inside the house, with some of the very women that will use and appreciate this gift of music.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Find Your Way Home Prison Tour: Tallahassee, FL

With the success of speaking at the Tennessee Prison for Women Department of Correction in Nashville, Magdalene/Thistle Farms, partnering with Abingdon Press (the publishers of Find Your Way Home), have embarked on a new journey, sharing hope with those who so desperately need it.

The Find Your Way Home Prison Tour is a 10 city tour sponsored by The Cal Turner Family Foundation. Its purpose is threefold:

1) to share the story of Magdalene with women inside prison walls, reminding them that they can create communities of healing because no one is so lost they can't find their way home,

2) to share the large message of hope and love as powerful forces for change, reminding each other that there is always hope

3) to continue to help educate the wider culture about the truth and myths of why women walk the streets and how we can welcome women back into the larger community.

It's about learning to love the whole world, one person at a time.

On November 14, as part of the tour, we visited Gadsden Correctional Institution in Tallahassee, FL. Becca Stevens, founder of Magdalene and Abingdon Press author, shares her reflections:

We began on Sunday at Killearn United Methodist Church, preaching at all the services and speaking with a group of people interested in starting new prison ministries to women.

Gwen, who has four years clean, and Tara, who has three years clean, spoke eloquently about the journey through prison and the transformative path of love and hope they experienced in Magdalene.

John Kutsko, Publishing Director at Abingdon Press and coordinator of this tour, jumped in and served as photographer and Thistle Farms salesman. We sold out of our products and books before the third church service began.

Our journey through prison included speaking and singing to two groups of inmates, sharing 200 copies of Find Your Way Home, seeing past the sea of blue and white prison uniforms and hearing the stories of hope and longing from the women.

The day was awe-inspiring and everyone from Rick Seiter, the COO of Corrections Corporation of America, to Joyce Arnold, the warden, was a gracious host.

Seeing the women work in the green house and with the greyhounds were highlights of the day. At one point, one of the inmates was singing harmony to "Bless The Broken Road." I looked over and tears were running down Julie's face.

I believe the tears were about feeling both the brokenness of the road the women have walked and the tenderness of their collective story that still ends with the word hope.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Thistle Tweeting!

Tweeting season is open at Thistle Farms! Follow us @thistlefarms to get updates on new products, stories from the women and inspirational musings to keep you connected to the community.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Principle 20: Love Without Judgment

We love the women still walking the streets,
the people who have turned away from us,
and the people we thought we could not love.

This is the kind of radical love that can change the world.

We believe that radical love is experienced
in how we serve one another
in the name of our higher power.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Holiday Gift Ideas

Looking for a holiday gift that gives back? Consider the Thistle Farms seasonal Candle, Room Spray and Sachet - each with our Signature Holiday scent! This season we are using nutmeg and orange essential oils combined with cinnamon and apple spice for a great way to make your home smell like the holidays.... naturally, of course. Holiday candle is $25.00; Room Spray is $17.00 and Sachet (filled with dried orange slices, apple slices, cedar roses, cinnamon chips and cloves) is $7.00. We always sell out of these items before the season ends, so order online or visit one of our retailers before they're gone!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Rebuilding the Arthur House

In January of 2009, the beloved Arthur House, which has been home to over 50 residents in the past 10 years, had to be torn down - the old wood frame house was no longer structurally sound. Through the gifts of about 15 individuals and organizations, the $94,000 was raised to create a brand new 'green' home for four residents.

At the head of this process is Residential Designer Lynn Taylor. Specializing in revitalizing neighborhoods through historic residential design, Taylor Made Plans, has donated most of their design services and coordinated the design building team who also donated their services. As Taylor Made Plans focuses on preserving the historic character of neighborhoods while adapting the homes to meet modern living needs, our Arthur home will be well suited to both the neighborhood, as well as to the needs of our residents.

When we asked Lynn what compelled her to help Magdalene in this remarkable way, she commented, "Creating energy efficient homes that are both functional and affordable are features that Taylor Made Plans are known for. When we received the invitation to be a part of the Magdalene House project, we were truly excited; I'd like to thank Shonna Sexton Studio, Curtis Borntrager, our contractor and Jeff Middlebrooks at E3 Innovate who takes care of our energy efficiency audits to ensure that we have achieved our goal of an energy efficient home."

We will be breaking ground on the Arthur House in the coming month. Look for an update in early 2010.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Principle 19: Live In Gratitude

Everything is a gift,
so we can offer and accept it all with gratitude.

We contribute in gratitude for all we have been given
so that our gifts can be offered to others
with no strings attached.

Gifts given over and over
eventually come around the circle of love is completed.
Everyone is giving,
and everyone is receiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

TESTIMONIAL! - Lip Smoothie

A new feature of the Thistle Farms blog is our TESTIMONIAL! posts. If you have tried out one of our products, visited the store, seen Thistle Farms featured in any publication or just want to let the world know how much you love Thistle Farms' products, tell us about it!

Our first TESTIMONIAL! comes from Yasmin in Nashville:

"I just wanted Magdalene House to know that I purchased your lip smoothie recently. I've used several organic lip balms before, but this one is "like butta" on my lips.

I have found that I can use it under my regular lipstick and my lips stay moisturized since most lipsticks tend to dry out my lips.

I love that it's sold in several shops around town where I can run in and get some when I run out. Thanks so much for making such a wonderful product. I love it!"

Thank you, Yasmin!

To purchase our lip smoothie (ingredients including almond oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter and pomegranate flavor oil), go to

If you have a TESTIMONIAL! you'd like to share with us, email and tell us your story!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Face of Love Fundraiser Video

As we mentioned before, the fall fundraiser was a huge success and one of the highlights of the evening was a multimedia presentation showing what 'the face of love' looks like to different people in the community. Click on the videos below to experience the beauty again!

You can also keep up with Thistle Farms' YouTube page (thistlefarmsofTN) for more videos showcasing the work of the organization.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Principle 18: Walk Behind

On the spiritual path
we are not asked to walk side by side as friends.
We are asked to walk behind our God.

We are called to learn what servant hood means
and to follow our spiritual path.

We need to be servants of one another,
everyone with different jobs.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Magdalene Overview on YouTube

With the help of our dear friend, Patti Blevins, Magdalene & Thistle Farms now has a video on YouTube! This 6 minute piece shows a deeper look into the Magdalene program, the women who have benefited from it and the outreach that Magdalene and Thistle Farms continue to do throughout the world.

Click on the video below or come check out our home on YouTube -- thistlefarmsofTN.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Principle 17: Remember You Have Been in a Ditch

We do not share the same experiences,
but we all have been in need sometime in our lives.

We stay grateful for when someone
lifted us out of the ditch
and offered us food,
and shelter.

We offer these gifts in gratitude
with no strings attached.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fall Fundraiser Recap

On Wednesday, November 4th, Thistle Farms hosted its annual Fall Fundraiser at the Vanderbilt Student Center. Attendees were treated to an inspirational evening of music, art and reflection led by Magdalene founder and executive director, Becca Stevens. The evening featured a moving multimedia presentation with photographs submitted by, among others, Governor Phil Bredesen, renowned sculptor Alan LeQuire, WSMV anchor Demetria Kalodimos, Chief of Police Ronal Serpas, songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman, Internationally Renowned artist Paul Harmon and the current Magdalene residents. Music for the evening was directed by Becca’s husband, Grammy Award-winning songwriter Marcus Hummon.

The fall fundraiser is the primary means that Magdalene/Thistle Farms raises money to continue to keep their doors open to women on the streets. While pledges are still coming in, the evening's total amount collected in gifts and pledges was $202,000 for this year!

We are so blessed by the generosity of those who attended and donated money. We extend our heart-felt gratitude to everyone and wanted to share a few photos from the magical night. To see more pictures, become a fan of Thistle Farms on Facebook and check out the Face of Love Fall Fundraiser photo album!

photos by Carole Hagan