Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Nationwide Notoriety

On Sunday, April 26, Thistle Farms was introduced to a new audience... the readers of national newspaper and online presence, The Washington Times.

The story was crafted by gifted writer, Andrea Billups and was visually portrayed by sweet photographer, Barbara L. Salisbury. Capturing the essence of the Nashville-based organization, the article and pictures explained the complexity of the program as well as its simplistic bottom line: love is the strongest force for change in the world.

What was even more touching was the note we received from Andrea the day the article was released.


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!


What a humbling email to receive from someone who has brought us into a new spotlight and whose words may also inspire and give hope to all those who read it. We are truly grateful for the gifts of Andrea and Barbara and are grateful to share their story with you HERE.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Telling My Story

Amy Jones is a graduate of Magdalene - a beautiful woman whose presence is a light and encouragement to others. We are so honored that Amy would want to be a part of our blog community and share her story here.

My Journey

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.

To all our blog friends, Amy has some particular health challenges right now - so please keep her in your thoughts and prayers!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New Growth

In honor of Earth Day, the women of Thistle Farms planted a tree outside of its Belle Meade location. A hole was dug deep into the ground and a pink dogwood was securely tucked into the earth.

Caitlin, a Thistle Farms' volunteer, talked about some of the benefits to planting a tree. "Trees produce oxygen and help clean the air," she explained. "Plus, they just make our environment more beautiful!"

Each woman took their hand and scooped up a mound of organic soil. As they dropped in their piece of earth and covered the tree's roots with care, Marlei, the Director of Development, prayed over the new life. "We need to love and nurture this tree like God loves and nurtures the earth and us."

There is a legend in Christianity that believes that the dogwood tree was used as the wood
that made Jesus' cross for his crucifixion. As we await the pink blossoms, it seems like a fitting reminder of the sacrifices we and others make as we continue on our journey.

Text and photos courtesy of Carolyn Snell.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Our Lip Balm Is Sooooo In Vogue (Teen Vogue, that is!)

Check out May's issue of Teen Vogue where you'll find our
featured as one of "20 Green Beauty Buys Under $20!"

Looks like our little lip balm is making a big strides
in the fashion world....

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

From living on the streets to a day at the spa.

"hello gorgeous"
- Fanny Brice, "Funny Girl" 1968

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.

This was a simple yet profound way for a local business to donate to Magdalene and Thistle Farms. Most of our women had never been into a spa before and more than the typical advantages to spending a day of luxury at a spa, they were offered an opportunity to feel beautiful.

We are grateful to the women-owned-and-run business of Elysium for this amazing opportunity. And now... some photos of our radiant residents!

the spa was ours the whole day!

Services included massages,


hair trims & styles,

and makeup applications.

What a treat to have the tension released,

the feet soaked,

the nails polished,

the hair brushed,

and the hand held.

Though there were many choices,

our women walked away glowing,


glamorous & pampered,

and smelling of Thistle Farms healing oils.

All images courtesy of Carolyn Snell.

Friday, April 10, 2009

BlogTalkRadio - Saturday, April 11

On Saturday, April 11, some of the women of Magdalene / Thistle Farms are going to be featured on BlogTalkRadio, hosted by Renee from Womanist-Musings. Renee was kind enough to participate in our blog tour and invited us to be a part of her one hour radio show.

Beginning at 8:00 PM (EDT) / 7:00 PM (CDT), you can tune in HERE or click on the widget below to check out your whole show. You can also call in (347-326-9452) to ask questions or connect directly with these special guests.

Feel free to comment on the blog during the show! We look forward to hearing some of the life stories and wisdom waiting to be shared tomorrow night.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Healing Oil of the Thistle

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."

When the thistle was chosen to represent the women who have walked the streets where this flower (considered a weed) grows, we had no idea how much deeper the meaning would take root.

In honor of holy week, Becca combined thistle oil and shea butter and, while stirring the creation with her hands, prayed over it.
"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 healed
so that we can continue to walk
where we are being led.

May the thistle oil,
made to heal our liver and cleanse our bodies,
make us stronger
so our spirits can continue to love and serve God
and find our way home."
Then, slowly and sacredly, Becca began anointing the feet of Terry and said a silent prayer for her. Once Terry's feet had been cleaned, Terry then took the thistle-and-butter mixture and performed the same gesture to Peggy's hands. Each woman in the circle took turns blessing each other's hands and feet.

I am once again in awe of the beauty of these women, the love of the community that is gathered around me and the spirit that is so obviously present when two or more are gathered in His name.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Like Lilies in the Valley

A reflection written by Carolyn.

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.