Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Christmas Moment

Christmas comes in moments more than seasons. It comes in moments we feel love wash over us and sweep us up. It comes in dreams like Joseph’s where the line between earth and heaven fades into a vision of hope. It comes when common things take on new beauty and, for no reason, a streetlight on the drive home looks like it has taken on a haloed glow.

This year, the moment of Christmas came to me on a bleak midwinter morning driving down Charlotte Avenue. Several months ago, thistle Farms, the bath- and body-care company run for and by women who have survived lives of addiction, prostitution and violence, moved to the corner of 51st and Charlotte. The location is less than a mile away from St. Luke’s community center where my mom worked for decades before she died in 1997.

My childhood memories of Christmas are filled with delivering Christmas baskets and running the toy store in the neighborhood. The smell is a blend of the mulch company and other industries that I always associate with struggling families and my mom’s work. It’s humbling to me sometimes to think that I have ended up less than a mile from where she worked and I still smell it all.

As I drove down Charlotte, a statue of Mary sitting in a lot caught my eye. She was carved from stone, maybe limestone, and seemed fairly common. She was designed to look holy with downcast eyes and open hands. It was easy to imagine a hundred other Marys just like her, bought at rock-bottom prices and scattered around the country.

She would have never made it up against the high-end statues, but was the Mary made for yards and people who just want a reminder that hope is close by. As I drove past, I had a fleeting vision. I imagined Mary returning to dust and an eon of wind and water freeing her, reforming her back to her unrefined self.

There in limestone, in repose under the earth, her power to serve and save would be natural. Then, the image of all the limestone just beneath the surface of the pavement felt like a solid mantle of love holding up the whole city and beyond.

The depth and power of love was as big and solid as limestone itself. It doesn’t matter where we are — we are standing on love. I felt like crying or singing, and so grateful that for a moment Christmas came my way like a star in the east or an angel in a field.

Mary, the beloved who birthed our savior, was still cradling humanity as her own. All of us have moments of vision where sight is filled with grace and love comes down and sweeps us up in its wake. Those are Christmas moments when we can believe Emmanuel, God is with us.

The hope of Christmas lies in the truth that such fleeting visions are enough to carry us through long nights of hardship, injustice or separation.

Joseph’s dream carried him through to Bethlehem and into Egypt. Mary’s vision kept her faithful. The gift is, we have all we need to have a moment that inspires us to be more loving and faithful pilgrims, as we walk over the limestone paths ahead.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Celebrating With A Little Bling

As Thistle Farms' employees wrap up the end of the year, one of our new friends added a little bling to the celebration with beautiful pieces of costume jewelry from her own line of fashion accessories, Xovo Designs.

Each woman got a unique piece (including necklaces, bracelets and earrings) and were able to exchange with each other.

Following are some fun photos from the jewelry surprise:

Thank you, Cara! We are so grateful for your generosity and adding a little sparkle in our lives.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Saving Lives One Purchase At A Time

During the holidays, it's easy to forget the real reason for the season. There's a lot of hurrying, long to-do lists and last minute shopping to complete. As you choose your Christmas gifts, consider the fact that purchasing Thistle Farms products will actually help you save a life. Each and every penny spent on hand lotions, candles, lip balms and books go back into the program which helps women come off the streets and into sanctuary. Not only will you be giving all-natural and aromatically delicious gifts, but you will also be supporting the very women that make these products with love, by hand.

You can order online at, by calling 615-298-1140, by stopping by the Thistle Farms manufacturing building at 5122 Charlotte Pike in Nashville or by visiting one of our 140 national retailers.

From Amy, Peggy, Cynthia, Katrina, Tammy, Monique, Phyllis, Peggy, Terry, Val, Beverly, Angela, Tara, Tiffany, Chelle, Rita, Tasha, Doris, Gladys, June, Sherry, Yolanda, Penny, Karlee, Tony, Nina and everyone at Thistle Farms -- thank you for your support!

photo by Lindsey with

Musing Over Thistle Farms This Thursday

Muse Boutiques is having a Thistle Farms party on Thursday, Dec. 16th at both of their stores in Cool Springs and on West End Ave.

Stop by either location from 5pm - 8pm and say hello to Chelle and Tasha in Franklin (545 Cool Springs Blvd, Suite #125,) or Bev and Tara in Nashville (2525 West End, Suite #2505).

A portion of Muse Boutique's sales proceeds during this event will be donated directly to Thistle Farms.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Support A Graduate By Getting A Massage

Julie Lowery is not only a Licensed Massage Therapist, but is also a graduate of the Magdalene program (2006). She works at Body & Sole in the heart of downtown Nashville and is offering some great deals for the holiday season!

Massage and gift certificates are only $50 for an hour and $25 for half an hour. Buy 10 get one free. For downtown workers, Julie offers free chair massage on Thursdays from 9:00 am- 11:30, first come first serve. Deals are good through January 3, 2011.

Located at:
162 Fourth Avenue North, Suite # 104, Nashville, TN 37219
with free valet parking provided at the Courtyard Marriott

Julie is a graduate of the Natural Health Institute in Nashville, TN. She is licensed and certified in Tennessee, and a member of AMBP (Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals). Julie is also a certified nurse’s assistant and entered the massage world as another way to care for those around her. She believes massage is very healing for the mind, body, and soul, and strives to bring a healthy, therapeutic touch to the community.

As a compassionate person, her main goal is to reduce pain, stress, and greatly lower the need for medicine. She believes in a holistic approach and strives to learn all she can to help those she meets, incorporating deep breathing, stretches, and acupressure into her massage sessions.

Julie is an individual who cherishes life and the lives around her, and she wants to share healing through massage therapy with the community.

Congratulations to Julie and all of her success!

We'll be featuring other graduates and ways you can support them in the coming future.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Weekend Shopping Alert

If you are shopping in Cool Springs this weekend,
Thistle Farms will be selling product at
from 10am-2pm on Saturday 12/11.

Stop in to say hi to Gladys & Stephanie,
stock up on Thistle Farms holiday gifts...
and get a great pair of shoes!

545 Cool Springs Blvd
Franklin, TN 37067

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thistle Visitors

One of the goals at Thistle Farms is to spread the vision of Magdalene to other communities and states. In this way, we become a voice in the dialogue that promotes women's freedom, while at the same time encouraging other places to start their own communities. Many friends have stopped by this fall for a tour and visit to our new Thistle Farms Building. We have had visitors from Dayton, Dallas, Atlanta, Charleston, Raleigh, Florida, Scotland, Hendersonville, and Pennsylvania. One friend was an old classmate of mine and she is taking the message that love heals back to her home church. She claims now to be a Thistle Farmer and spent part of her weekend after her visit collecting thistles. Thank you, Kate.

With gratitude,
Becca Stevens

Pictured: Rev. Kate Kelderman from Gettysburg, PA and Rev. Becca Stevens from Nashville, TN.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Holiday Gifts

According to the Nashville Scene, this year, stop wasting your time and give gifts that matter. We couldn't agree more, especially since we have a some perfect holiday gifts for everyone on your list!

Check out these holiday-specific gifts and great deals, all handmade by the women of Thistle Farms:

Take care of all your skin and body needs for the winter months ahead in one beautifully-packaged kit! Each is filled with a bath tea, body polish, body balm and lip balm. The cotton drawstring bags are hand-made by women from the Lwala Community Alliance in Kenya.

Holiday Candle
Made with soy-bean based ecowax and the finest ingredients of the earth. Totally vegan. Completely holiday.

Fill your home with love and spray it with this fine mist. A fabulous alternative to heavy, chemical sprays. Our all-natural spray will refresh and revive your rooms with scents of the season. Over 750 sprays in one bottle!

Holiday Sachet
A holiday smell for the entire home! Enjoy these seasonal aromas while they last.

Our all-natural hand soap uses sunflower seed and coconut oils to gently and effectively clear away dirt. Our lotion also uses olive and grapeseed oils, plus honey and pure lavender essential oil to nourish and soften dry skin. For the holidays, save $5 by buying them together as a perfect pair.

Don't forget to check out our entire product line at our Online Store!

PLUS - if your company is thinking of buying gifts for its employees and/or vendors, know that Thistle Farms offers corporate discounts for volume orders over $500. Show your colleagues your support for local business and belief in the real meaning of the season. Contact for more information.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

God Is Good

We sing because we're happy.
We sing because the fire is hot in our bellies.
We sing because the wind is cool on our faces.
We sing because God is wonderful.

We sing because God is faith.
We sing because faith is hope.
We sing because it frees me.
We sing because freedom is a gift I love.

We sing because it makes the world go round.
We sing because I am a child of correction.
We sing because I am teachable.

We sing because God likes my voice.
We sing because God blessed us.

~ by the women of Magdalene

Happy Thanksgiving from everyone in the Thistle Farms and Magdalene community!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sewanee Alumni of the Year Award

Becca Stevens, mathematics major in the Class of '85, was honored at Sewanee's Homecoming this year with the Distinguished Alumnus Award. She was the youngest recipient of this award and its first female recipient.

Becca had the following remarks on receiving the award:
Thank you so much to the alumni association for this honor. I am humbled by it. Both of my parents are buried on this mountain and to accept this award in such close proximity to them feels very special to me. The foundation for the work I have done for the past couple decades was laid long before I came to the mountain. It was the early death of my father and other childhood experiences that set the stage for having a desire to serve women with criminal backgrounds in addiction and prostitution, who on average were first abused between the ages of 7 and 11, most of whom knew the backside of justice, the underside of bridges and the short side of economics long before they knew the inside of prisons. While that foundation was built, it was here on this mountain that I learned the necessary skills and theology to put those experiences into a context and a ministry. It was here that professors like Dr. Spacerelli not only taught me Spanish but offered books like “the hovering giant” that questioned the balance of power in this part of the world. Math professors like Dr. Croom, Dr. Puckett, and Dr. Alverez not only gave me a structure to solve problems, but taught me that mathematics was a universal language that could be translated into developing language about God. Professors like Dr. Smith, Dr. Potter, and many others gave us the freedom to question religion and the environments we were surrounded by. The administration under Dr. Ayers offered us opportunities to develop our leadership and give us a platform to learn to speak our truth. Since my graduation have been meandering mostly on side roads for the past two and a half decades. During this sojourn I have learned that love is the most powerful force for social change, that we can love the whole world a person at a time, and that the most radical form of love is to love without judgment. The lessons have left me with little energy for the politics of religion, and need buckling grateful that I get to be part of communities that remember that serving one another is not a side issue, but central to the gospel and to living out our faith. I still have so much more to learn and this community reminds me that we are life-long students. I am grateful to so many people, classmates and colleagues and friends and my husband Marcus and our sons Levi and Caney and Moses that keep the communities I serve going. My prayer is that we all keep taking the lessons of this community back into the world and speak our truth in love with conviction always. Thank you so much.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Share Your Birthday With Thistle Farms

When Susan from Nashville was planning her birthday celebration, she remembered hearing about Thistle Farms though her job at HCA.

Susan tells us: "I decided after 44 years of birthdays and trying to come up with something different to do, I thought it would be fun to have a home party for my birthday. People are going to buy gifts or pay for your dinner so why not let them spend their money on a worthy cause? I realize birthdays are suppose to be all about 'me' and I couldn't think of a better way to feel that way than to know I was part of something so special. Through my party, I gave my friends and coworkers a the reason to come and witness the women and see the products."

To book the party, Susan got in contact with our Events Coordinator, Carole "It was extremely easy," Susan said. "I emailed Carole who made me feel so good about doing this from the start and all I had to do was give her a few logistics and off we went. The whole thing was taken care of with just a few emails. Let’s face it -- I am not as much of the technology generation but even I have to admit it is nice not to have to deal with set up through a 1,000 phone calls."

Susan thought her guests all seemed to enjoy the party. One of them was quoted saying: “It was an inspiring and fun event – those ladies are so very strong and have conquered such obstacles in their lives. I only hope if I were ever faced with an obstacle that difficult I would respond with that type of courage and perseverance. Thank you for doing this!!! I loved it.”

Happy birthday Susan! We loved spending your special day with you.

If you are interested in planning a birthday party with Thistle Farms, email Carole at for more information.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

More Visions of Love Stories

We are so grateful to all who attended
the Magdalene Fall Fundraiser:

In one night, we shared stories of hope
and asked our friends -- new and old -- for their help
to keep the doors of Magdalene and Thistle Farms open.
To continue helping women come off the streets and into sanctuary.
To live out a true love story.

Our friends did not let us down!

We've posted photos from the magical night
on our Facebook page or you can also see them on Flickr.
Below is a video of our own, Shelia,
a graduate of the Magdalene program
and the Assistant Resident Manager of the houses.
This is a first hand testimonial of true love story
and the hope that lies within the doors or Magdalene.

with special thanks to Laura Choppin for her vision and beautiful video and production skills.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Love Stories

Love Stories
from the Magdalene Fall Fundraiser: Love Stories of Hope, Surrender and Courage.

When "us" and "them", however we define those words, cease to exist, a love story ensues. This is a love story. Every single person in this room (and reading this right now) is a beloved character in this story. It is our story of becoming us. It is the story of learning to speak our truth in love and telling the story through our actions. Thank you for helping write this story.

Love stories teach us how rich life can be. Two years ago, we realized we had become thistle farmers and that the whole world is our farm and that we could harvest thistle anywhere we traveled. We learned we could write our stories on our own ground up thistles we found on roadsides, abandoned mountain tops, and in flood-devastated lands. A group of thistle farmers traveled to Africa that same year and found thistles on the edge of a memorial erected to commemorate 258,000 people killed during the genocide in Rwanda. There are enough thistles in this world to cover all the love stories we could write and they are a perfect offering for this evening.

By the summer of 2009, Thistle Farms was making healing oils with geranium oil we learned about from Rwanda and wrapping them in our thistle paper. We took these beautiful oils and paper around the country and began offering them as part of our line of thistle farms products. During this same time we also began a prison tour, funded by the Cal Turner Foundation, to take our message of hope and healing into the women’s prisons. Into each prison we brought the book, “Find Your Way Home,” written by Magdalene and inscribed with a message of hope.

The last prison we visited a couple months ago was outside of Houston, Texas. It had no air-conditioning and the smell of women who had worked all day in the turnip fields permeated the prison. We took 300 books for the prison women. It took so long to inscribe the books that we missed the deadline for shipping them and had to check them in with the luggage. Since I had to check the bag and pay the fee, I brought along some geranium oils that I couldn’t carry on the plane.The next day we unloaded the books into bags, carried them through the prison security and passed them out to 300 prisoners. A woman leaned over to me after she opened the book and said, "This book smells so beautiful. You would be surprised, but small things make such a big difference.”

Love stories surprise us. It was miraculous to me that a drop of geranium made its way from a group of women in Rwanda who embody hope as they go out to fields to grow new crops even after they have known such devastation. Then that drop of oil made its way to Nashville where another group of women who have survived lives of abuse, addiction and prostitution embody hope and go to work each day to make healing products that say on every label, Love Heals. Finally, that drop of oil made its way into the pages of a book written about hope, passed through prison walls and found its way to a woman who was open to breathing it in its hope and beauty. In the scale of love a drop in the bucket is plenty.

There are many love stories this year to share---26 women have entered the program since last year to come and live free in one of the six residential houses. 18 have successfully graduated from the Intensive outpatient program, 15 have completed their computer courses, 35 women are currently employed at Thistle Farms where we still need to triple our sales to make sure women can work living hours. 11 women graduated the two year residential program in June. 50 women were served through outreach efforts.

But our love stories are not a fairy tale where we get to live happily ever after. There are still a hundred women on the waiting list. Friends were sentenced to prison terms that will cost years of lives and millions of dollars. Most of those women saw the backside of injustice long before they saw the inside of a jail. Three women we know where murdered on the streets, including a graduate of Magdalene named Rosalyn. She was a beautiful sister who in an abusive relationship, lost her job, her home, and succumbed to addiction before her tragic death. She, too, is part of our love story and grieving her is not a burden, but a luxury as we remember every person in the world is a beloved child of God and in a love story, grief won’t break us, but instead gives us renewed strength and the impetus to start writing a new chapter of the story of love in all our lives. Despite all the mess ups I have made this year and all the mess ups people in our community have made---there is still love and there is still hope for all of us.

This is a year where our love story, like all love stories will unfold, not in words, but in deeds. It will unfold not in people praising us, but joining in the effort to help change a culture that still buys and sells women, that holds the secrets of abuse as sacred and turns a blind eye to the needs of sisters on the streets. Our goal tonight to keep the houses open and the business running is to raise $225,000; it is so doable.

Beyond that we need everyone to buy and use our products to spread the news. Don’t have anything else in your bathrooms at home or at your business but Thistle Farms products. Light a candle and say a prayer for this work. This year we need to renovate one of our homes, increase our retail accounts to over $10,000 a month, solidify our relationship to Whole Foods, visit another 100 congregations here and around the country, visit more prisons, and teach another fifty groups who will visit Magdalene from other cities how to adapt this model.

Our goals are no loftier than you would expect in a love story. Love stories are truth. And truth can be more harrowing than fiction. It will be the unbelievable story and we are the heroes.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sugarland Live-Streamed Show Benefits Thistle Farms

Tonight, country music stars Sugarland will air a live-streamed concert from New York City as part of the AmEx Unstaged series. 100% of the ticket proceeds go to an organization of the artist's choice. Jennifer and Kristian have chosen Thistle Farms!

The show will air at 9pm ET/6pm PT (that's 8pm for everyone in Nashville!) on Sugarland's VEVO channel, straight from NYC's Best Buy Theater into your living room.

Thank you, Jennifer and Kristian, for this great gift and we wish you luck tonight!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Belmont Students Win International Award

As we reported before, Belmont University’s Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) team were the champions in Atlanta for the SIFE USA Regional Competitions.

This month, they took 3rd Place in the SIFE World Cup! Belmont represented the United States in a competition where students were judged on the business projects they developed to bring about positive social change in their communities.

One of Belmont SIFE’s projects involved working with Thistle Farms and students provided computer and financial training for the women in the program.

Congratulations to all of the participating students!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Lip Smoothie Crowned Best of Nashville

According to the October issue of the Nashville Scene, the Thistle Farms Lip Smoothie is Nashville's BEST LIP GLOSS of 2010!

From writer Sean Maloney:
It's last December and we're looking for stocking stuffers. The young lady behind the counter at our local tchotchke shop leans over and says, "This is the best lip gloss ever." So we buy it, Festivus comes, and our recipient declares, "This is the best lip gloss ever!" Then our giftee leans in for a kiss, and we're like, "Whoa! This is the best lip gloss ever!" Smooth and tasty without being too thick or waxy, and all for a great cause — helping local women in need overcome lives of violence and prostitution.

Thanks, Nashville Scene and everyone who voted! If you haven't tried out our creamy, shimmery, buttery pomegranate treat for your lips yet, you'd better get on it before the winter wind hits. You can find it online or at some of our favorite retailers in Nashville which you can locate HERE.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tracey's Journey

Tracy's smile can light up a room. Her compassion and perseverance are innate qualities that were never squelched despite the hardships she endured while growing up in public housing in Nashville with her parents and two younger brothers. Her first experience of a relationship was watching her Dad abuse her Mom and cheat on her with other women. “I thought that’s what love was,” Tracey says.

Eventually, Tracey’s Dad left the family and Tracey began acting out by drinking, smoking marijuana and being promiscuous. When her youngest brother was killed in a drive-by shooting at age 13, Tracey’s grief-stricken mother started using drugs as well. Their now-shared habit only pushed Tracey and her mother further apart.

At 17, Tracey dropped out of high school and in a short time she had three children. Her drug use escalated when her curiosity and feelings of abandonment led her to crack cocaine. “I remember seeing a woman I knew always laughing and seemingly happy and I wanted to feel the same way. She told me, ‘I’ll put it down and if you pick it up, you’re on your own. I don’t want anyone to say I got you started.’ That was my first experience of smoking the pipe and it took me on a loop where I could have never imagined it would take me.”

To afford her habit, Tracey got into a cycle of prostitution and selling drugs for nearly 16 years. Becca Stevens, the founder of Magdalene, talks about Tracey in her book, Hither & Yon:

“One evening, in a haze outside of a crack house, a horrible scene unfolded. In a midst of a fight, a man was shot and she was charged. After living in the Magdalene community for almost a year, the woman was charged with second degree murder. At her sentencing, she was surrounded by a community of women who had lived with her and helped her fight her case. The judge ruled that she would serve no time. He sentenced her to eight years of probation and allowed her to live another year in Magdalene, in a home that is striving to show that love is the most powerful force for change in this world.”

Tracey has been clean since October 2004, is a graduate of the Magdalene program and is the Manufacturing Manager at Thistle Farms. In addition, she is the Supervisor for Housekeeping at TPAC, lives in her own apartment and is a grandmother of three.

She says, “I love my life today. I try not to beat up on myself. I’m doing the best I can in whatever I’m doing. I’m grateful to have gone through what I had to in order to get where I am today.” She is a gift to all people that need to remember that we can all find our way home.

Photos 1 & 2 by Carolyn Snell
Photo 3 by Kate Medley with Whole Foods

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

HCA's Caring for the Community Campaign

September 23rd, a group of volunteers from the HCA (Hospital Corporation of America) came by to assist with making thistle paper, as part of their Caring for the Community Campaign. They have been dedicated volunteers for several years and we are thankful for their service to our community. Special thanks to Kathi Whalen for her help & dedication! Here are some comments from volunteers that day (note: photos do not correspond to comments):

Participant 1: It’s one thing to read online about an organization that doing good things – it is truly another to see it in action. The time spent yesterday with a few of the women of Magdalene was priceless and has touched my heart. They have faced what must have seemed like an impossible journey of turning their lives around, leaving behind self destructive behaviors and learning life skills that I have taken for granted. The support program provided by Thistle Farms and the Women of Magdalene is truly life saving. One of the women thanked us yesterday for helping to “save her life." She’s been sober for 6 months as of last Friday. She most likely has no idea that she may have ignited the very spark I needed to address my own self destructive addiction to sugar and processed foods. I am hopeful that by sharing her story with us, she may have just saved my life as well.

Participant 2: Those women were bright and hopeful and seem to look to each day as one that surely will bring something else good to their lives. That is a gift they have won through lots of trials and tribulations. When I think of my own charmed life and the things that I too often consider to be “problems” that get me down, I am simply ashamed of myself after meeting those women yesterday. They helped me think of my own situation differently and they really taught me a lot about life and how to face each day, just in those short moments here and there of sharing their stories. I have never faced anything nearly as difficult as they have, but deep down we are all the same and I just know that in a different time or place, I could be just where they are. I hope that if it were to happen to me I would face the future with the grace and courage that I saw in their beautiful faces yesterday.

Participant 3: Volunteering at Magdalene/Thistle Farms was such a personal and rewarding experience. This organization has such an inclusive, well-rounded program to minister to these women. They not only meet each one’s need for a safe place to live, food and clothing but they go deeper to provide emotional, psychological and spiritual healing necessary for these women to truly turn their lives around and discover who they are and the purpose God has for their lives. By teaching them work skills and work ethic, the women gain confidence, self-esteem and feelings of self-worth.

I had the opportunity to talk with several of the residents as we were working...One stated “I now have my own apartment and another responded “I now have my own house.” I said “That is awesome. What a fantastic accomplishment.” The response I received was a huge smile stating “Yes it sure is and we are thankful to God for the opportunity we have been given.” I immediately knew how much I take for granted in this life.

Participant 4: Working at Thistle Farms was an eye opening experience for my husband and I. My husband is not from America, but this past year he has seen how helping out in the community brings out the best in people. He was really touched as was I by the organization and the people it serves....We take classes to learn about diversity and I can say that yesterday’s experience was more beneficial in diversity education and humanity than any class available. This was definitely for me and my husband one of those cases where you can say you walked away with more than what you came. Our mission was to give back to the community but I think we can all agree that we walked away with more than we could ever imagine. Thank you all so much for such a great experience.

Story and photos compiled by
Kathi Whalen
Nashville, TN

Monday, October 4, 2010

LCUSA Assembly - A Photographer's Perspective

Following is a beautiful piece written by Elena Miranda from New York City. We are grateful for her words and photographs.

Lunch was over and it was time to return to the LCUSA Assembly meeting room. I was photographing the 2010 Assembly for the Ladies of Charity and I wanted to be ready for the afternoon session. I noticed a new table was being set up in the hallway area outside the meeting room doors. I glanced over at the beautiful packages and smiled at the women setting up the table. I didn’t really notice what they were selling and I continued on my way thinking, “Oh, that’s nice, a vendor.” I got my two cameras ready and waited for the meeting to resume. I was up in the front to get a shot of the past president as she introduced the next speaker, Rev. Becca Stevens. Becca was sitting up by the podium but she stepped down to address the LCUSA from the floor. My connection to the LCUSA is both professional and personal and so I was moving around taking photos and listening at the same time.

“Love Heals at Magdalene” was powerful, moving, inspiring and funny. Becca Stevens’ message, “that in the end, love is more powerful than all the forces that drive women to the streets,” became real to the audience when she introduced one of the graduates from Magdalene.

I got a few shots of the speaker and then stopped to listen. I was moved to tears as she shared her personal story of tragedy and triumph. Other women stepped forward from the back of the room to join her, all graduates of Magdalene. They told a little about themselves and then took questions from the floor. The women then spoke of Thistle Farms and the skin care products they produce, market, package and sell to help support their program. That vendor table with the pretty packages outside the meeting room took on a new meaning to everyone in the room.

Becca Stevens and the women of her program finished their presentation to a standing ovation from the Ladies of Charity. I followed them outside and went over to the Thistle Farms table before the meeting was adjourned. I wanted to make a purchase and help support the program in my own small way. As soon as a break was announced, the LCUSA members mobbed the Thistle Farms table.

The Ladies of Charity, women of faith and love, were obviously very moved by the story of love, kindness, compassion and triumph that is Magdalene. Their response to Becca Stevens and the graduates of Magdalene was tremendous. There were many smiles from both sides of the table that day. Becca Stevens is right; there is nothing more powerful than love.

Story and photos by
Elena Miranda

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Magdalene Fall Fundraiser: Love Stories of Hope, Surrender & Courage

Love Stories of Hope, Surrender and Courage

November 3, 2010, 6:00pm, Vanderbilt Student Life Center

The Magdalene Fall Fundraiser is always a special evening in our community, and it is the primary way that we raise the money to keep our doors open to women from the streets. Last year, the theme was the Face of Love and both residents and community leaders explored this theme visually and then presented their 'face of love' at the fundraiser. This year we are exploring the deeper stories of love behind those faces. The women of Magdalene and Thistle Farms have been working with poet Stephanie Pruitt to write their own personal love stories over the past few months. On the evening of November 3, you will have the opportunity to hear and read many of those stories. In addition, these stories and an honorary piece written by celebrated best-selling author, Ann Patchett, will be bound in a handsome book and offered as a gift to guests that evening.

If you are unfamiliar with our fundraiser, it is a short, inspirational introduction to Magdalene designed to introduce new friends to the program and to express gratitude to our faithful supporters. There is no ticket or table cost - it’s free for everyone to come. At the end of the evening everyone is given an opportunity to give, and this is how we continue to keep our program going, year after year. The evening will feature music created by playwright and Grammy-winning songwriter, Marcus Hummon and will feature a choir of some of Nashville finest singers and the women of Magdalene.

Although there is no cost to attend the Magdalene fundraiser, an RSVP is necessary. For questions or to confirm your attendance, please email We hope you can join us for this special event.

Love Stories Chairs, Carole Hagan & Lisa Froeb

Friday, September 24, 2010

Patron Saint Of Last Chances

Check out this great interview with Becca Stevens on Chapter 16, a publication of Humanities Tennessee. Becca speaks about her newest books, Walking Bible Study: The Path of Love, The Path of Peace and the Path of Justice and discusses her multiple roles as priest, mom and Thistle Farmer.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Love From Lwala

We received a note of thanks with a beautiful photograph of a woman from the Lwala Community Alliance on the front of the card. These women have been working on hand-made cotton drawstring bags to hold the all-natural products that go into the Summer Survival Kit. Their handwritten words were simple and sweet and we could feel real connection, despite the distance.

Dear Women of Thistle Farms,
My name is Adelaide and I'm a graduate of Lwala New Vision Women Group. I'm so excited with your products you send us, they make us look young and beautiful. May you all be BLESSED.
Love you,

Dear Women of Thistle Farms,
My name is Elizabeth and I'm a graduate of Lwala New Vision Women Group. I'm glad with the relationship between you and us. The product you send us are very good and they are smalling nicy.
May God blessed you all,
Love you,

Photo credit:
Women of Lwala: Jena Nardella
Lwala Thank You Note: Jeremy Cowart
Summer Survival Kit: Carolyn Snell

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Introducing Our New Website

We are proud to announce the new and improved
Magdalene and Thistle Farms website:

Please stop by and see our updated online store,
photos and stories about the women,
information on the program,
and beautiful illustrations from one of our residents, Tracy B.
(We're still fine-tuning, so please be patient while we make a few small adjustments.)

While you're there, may we encourage you to purchase
a Summer Survival Kit,
now on sale for $24.00, regularly $30.00!

As always, thank you for your continued support of Thistle Farms.

Monday, August 30, 2010

We Are The Talk Of The Town

NewsChannel 5 WTVF-TV Nashville's "Talk of the Town" stopped by Thistle Farms and took a tour of our new facility. Katrina, our National Director of Sales, showed Ch. 5's Tuwanda Coleman around while the Thistle Farms employees were hard at work.

Check out the great video by clicking HERE.