Twice a year, I travel to Florida where I speak to journalism students. I serve on a dean's advisory council there at the University of Florida where I advise faculty and students on best practices, etc. I am often asked by young students there what my best or favorite stories are to cover. I've been doing this for more than 20 years, but my answer is easy -- even though most of them expect me to say something about the celebrities I've met over the ages.
I always tell them that my favorite stories are about people who manage to redeem themselves, to rise above past transgressions and through hard work and God's grace, manage to make a second chance in this world. And how I love in our country, due in no small part to our faith traditions, that we embrace a comeback, that we like to see a second act, how we don't give up on people or their possibilities.
It was a tremendous blessing to get to visit Nashville and talk to you, Becca and the women who help run the Magdalene program and Thistle Farms. It was an emotional reminder that people are worth redeeming, that we never give up hope that there can be transformation and a better way ahead. It was my deep honor -- and I hope you will convey it for me -- to hear the women's stories and to see them striving to beat addiction, abuse and forge a life full of promise.
All of us have gone through challenges, no doubt, but this message that God and grace can save us -- and the roughest among us -- deeply resonates for me. Keeping the values of Thistle Farms close is a good guide as I push forward in my own life. And I am so very, very grateful for all of you who shared and showed me the way.
I hope my story and Barbara photos and video, do just a tiny bit of justice to your wonderful program. Truly, tho, the honor was all ours and we were touched deeply by everything we saw.
My wish to you in the year ahead is that all your hopes and dreams are resurrected with new life. Many, many thanks!Andrea
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Monday, April 27, 2009
I was a lost and broken soul. From the earliest time I can remember I was not comfortable being in my own skin. I am going to tell you what happened, and what it is like now. It is going to be a challenge to put into words because it is indescribable.
When I was in jr high I started experimenting with drugs just to fit in. I just wanted people to like me, I wanted to belong somewhere and to be loved. My mother did not have much time for me as she was busy working full time and taking care of my grandmother who suffered with Alzheimer’s disease. The memories from that alone are horrifying. I remember hearing her scream all night. She no longer knew us and could not eat or go to the bathroom alone. As I began to drift away even further, the drugs and alcohol gave me a sense of peace and belonging that I was missing. I could describe all of the horror stories of my using days in great detail but I will be brief. Raped, Robbed, Beaten, Jailed, Hungry, Lonely, Angry, Tired, Sad, Lost and Spiritually Dead. That would sum it up. I do not regret the past because it has made me who I am today.
At the end of my using days I had no hope and wished for death. God was still there waiting for me. In September of 06, I was arrested for the last time. I say that with complete confidence because I believe I will never be on that side of the bars again. I have had the opportunity to go back into the jails and tell my story. Sharing my experience, strength and hope with those that are still in bondage continues to be one of the most spiritual experiences I could ever have. I can only keep what I have been so freely given by helping others and being of service wherever I can according to God’s will.
I could never have imagined the lost and lonely child the I used to be ever growing up and becoming the responsible spiritually connected woman I am today. God has done things within me I never thought possible. I have a sense of peace that surpasses any storm Life can bring my way today. That is what life is about to me today having that connection, getting out of myself enough to see that I am not the center of the universe I have a higher divine purpose for life today.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Text and photos courtesy of Carolyn Snell.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
On Tuesday, Elysium Spa set up a special day for Magdalene/Thistle Farms. The spa closed its doors to other customers and the gracious owners invited our women to spend a day of indulgence at its Brentwood location. All of the women received special services, including massages and facials, and were also offered additional beauty-based benefits like pedicures, brow waxes and make up applications.
All images courtesy of Carolyn Snell.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Today at Thistle Farms, Becca shared information on the thistle that most of us did not know. "Milk Thistle has been used as a liver remedy for at least 2,000 years. Research shows that compounds from the seeds help protect the liver against damage from alcohol and hepatitis and can even regenerate liver cells that have been damaged."
"Even when we are not clear where life is leading,if we are loving each other,we are being led toward God.We pray that our bodies are healedso that we can continue to walkwhere we are being led.May the thistle oil,made to heal our liver and cleanse our bodies,make us strongerso our spirits can continue to love and serve Godand find our way home."
Monday, April 6, 2009
The air and the wind that blow help me feel the presence of God. As I take a deep breath on my front porch in the morning I think back on the times when I was hitting the pipe and how I stopped breathing. God put breath back into my body. I think air, I think God. I think air and I thank God. The air smells fresh. Like lilies in the valley. It brings me to life. Lilies are a beautiful purple flower, blossoming and making the world a prettier place. I am excited about my journey and where I am now. I am even more excited about who I am becoming.