Saturday, May 29, 2010

Thistle Farming Season

As summer is making its appearance, thistles are blooming all around and Thistle Farming season is in full swing!
To me, being a thistle farmer means that the world is our farm, and our job is to see the beauty in the areas that have been abandoned or deemed unworthy of cultivating. Our fields include allies, lots behind malls, railway clearings, and the poorest sections of town. When we harvest a thistle it means that we still see the beauty in all of creation, and that nothing should be left to be condemned.
- Becca Stevens

The process to making thistle paper is simple:

thistle farmers will find thistles, cut off their royal purple center and bring them to Thistle Farms

Thistle Farms volunteers and employees will grind up the thistles to add to the pulp for the paper

the pulp and thistle is mixed together and strained through a deckle.

once the paper is dried, it is pounded into the shape that can be folded into a box

the result? a beautiful box made of thistle paper, that homes three bottles of the highest quality essential oils (Geranium, Cinnamon and Tea Tree), a small booklet of prayers, blessings and information on the natural healing properties of these essential oils.

Here are more photos from the process!

Now go into the world... and be a thistle farmer.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Magdalene Graduation 2010

Another year, another celebration of women who have completed the two year Magdalene program. This year, we not only honored 11 women who became Graduates, but also recognized the efforts of those who helped rebuild the Arthur House, which now houses four residents.

We are deeply grateful to the following for their work on the Arthur House:
Curtis Borntrager | Borntrager Homes
Lynn Taylor | Taylor Made Plans
Jeff Middlebrook | E3 Innovate
Shonna Sexton Studios
Beth Hailey Design
Tommy DeLoach | LP Building Products

Also sincere appreciation to the following for their gifts & services: AO Smith Water Products Company, Campbell, McRae & Assoc., CREW, Tania Dawant, Carlana Harwell, Paula Hock, LSI, St. Mark’s Missionary Society, Sandy Stahl, Katherine Wright and 31W Insulation.

And now, we present the Magdalene Graduates of 2010:

Debra Smith

Nina Philips

Tammy Martin

Peggy McFarland

Katie Lynn

Sydney Jordan

Gladys Gasaway

Lashonda Williamson

Karen Lindsey

(but still celebrated!)

Carolyn Davis
Melissa Harp

Congratulations to everyone! For more pictures of this special day, please go to our Facebook page.

Photos by Carolyn Snell
(except the Arthur House & Karen)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Graduate Inspiration

Today was a joyous occasion as we celebrated the graduation of 11 women from the Magdalene program. As we sort through pictures, finding the best ones to sum up the feeling of the day, we want to share some words of wisdom that 2010 Magdalene Graduate Lashonda Williamson read to the community during the ceremony.

Many believe life is a journey
for which we seek answers,
formulate ideas,
have the luxury to dream of its ultimate gifts.

However, as humans, our search is like
an archaeological discovery
that has continuous unsolved questions
and only clues that may be
our key element to our purpose.

Today, I am not here to unsolve a riddle
or humor you with brilliant metaphors,
but to tell you during my search,
I discovered me!

Speaking to you today is a blessing,
in that I know if anyone could bless me
with any token of love in this audience,
it would be the gift of empathy.

Addiction consumed me
for many lonely nights and melancholy days.
I felt angry, lost and weary
at life’s despairing turntables.

When you hit the bottom of depression and fear,
prosperity is like the shining chandelier
hanging in a beautiful room.
I wanted LIFE again.
The ability to smile,
love and by loved by my precious friends and family.

When I reached Magdalene, it was like
I was a jewel
ready to be polished and shine again.
Superior thinking and helpful mentoring
allowed me to see what was important again:
Yes! I say to myself, “I matter. Shon matters.”
And I have a purpose!

I have swam the ocean of despair,
climbed that mountain of deceit
and skied that slope of a false utopia.

My utopia is this place of
and hard work.

So, today, I don’t want you to walk away
from this commencement as if it were
of ordinary nature,
because being out there alone as an addict
is far from an average person’s natural instinct.
NO! It is not natural
to go through that obstacle in one’s life.

But, what separates today
from any other graduate’s day,
is that not only do I receive
a certificate of recognition,
but I also receive me.
And that’s the ultimate gift
I’ve searched for and found!

Thank you & God bless.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Graduation 2010: Location Changed to St. Augustine's Chapel

WE ARE HAVING A CELEBRATION TODAY (Just at a different place!)

Join us for the graduation of 11 incredible women on Friday, May 21st at St. Augustine's Chapel on the Vanderbilt Campus, from 11:30am - 1:00pm. Address is 200 24th Ave. S., Nashville, 37212. For questions, call the chapel at (615) 322-4783. All are welcome!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Indigo Girls Stop By For A Visit

The Atlanta-based music duo, the Indigo Girls, stopped by Thistle Farms this morning while they were in Nashville recording a Christmas album. Emily Saliers and Amy Ray are not only amazingly talented musicians, but are also committed activists. From adding a link to to the activism page on their website to Emily’s guest appearance at the Find Your Way Home Benefit Concert in April – we are so grateful to Amy and Emily for their support of our program!

After meditation, the Thistle Farms staff gathered around for a group picture with our new friends.

Gwen gives a tour of the facility, while Tracy, Rita and Gladys are hard at work, wiping down body balms.

Amy & her dog hang out in the store. Looks like Thistle Farms has a new mascot!

Amy & Emily with founder Becca Stevens, holding one of our favorite Thistle Farms products -- the Lavender candle.

photos and story by Carolyn Snell

Monday, May 17, 2010

Tennessee Opinion

Check out an article written by Becca Stevens in the Tennessean. She poses the question: what serves society better -- jail a woman for 14 years or let her work at Thistle Farms?

Monday, May 10, 2010

After The Storm

Marcus and I took this picture yesterday at our new building. This is the one flower blooming at our new building. It is a single thistle. The rest of the yard is mud. This thistle seems to have thrived in the flood waters, the deep tap root steady in the storm. It soaked in the water and is stronger and more beautiful. I love that there is just one on the side lot. One is all we need to remember the thousand more that can bloom from it's seeds. I love you all.
That's enough of a sign for me.
peace and love, becca

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Find Your Way Home Prison Tour: Atlanta, GA

We just completed the seventh leg on the Find Your Way Home Prison Tour in Atlanta. Peachtree Road United Methodist Church hosted us on Sunday. In addition to selling $3,400 of Thistle Farms products, we made lots of new friends, hosted a forum, and learned about Peachtree's ministry with the Metro Atlanta Women’s prison.

On Monday evening, Marcus Hummon, Julie Roberts, Don Schlitz, and Emily Saliers played a benefit at Eddie’s Attic. That evening we made another $3,400 in sales and invited the packed room to become Thistle Farmers. Tara and Katrina from Thistle Farms told a little bit about who we are and why we are traveling around the country. My favorite moment was when Tara covered her eyes and through tears said to the crowd, "you have no idea what it feels like to me to be loved by strangers. You don't know me, and I can feel your love.”

The next day we all went into the prison. Volunteer Carolyn Snell, Abingdon Publishing's John Kutsko and two journalists from the Atlanta Journal Constitution joined us and we offered out presentation to 300 women inmates. The prison choir joined Emily in a rendition of "Amazing Grace". The crowd all sang along on Don's "The Gambler". I spoke about the similarities we were experiencing in the prisons and how I believed in the power of women working in community. Seeing several pregnant women was humbling. Listening to the stories after the presentation undoes me. It's a hard world, and I am grateful to walk through it with friends who continue to try and love the whole world one person at a time.

Peace and love, becca

For more photos from our trip, look at our Flickr page. For more information on the tour, visit the Abingdon Press page. Special thanks to the Atlantic Journal Constitution for covering the event. For the full story, go HERE.

Story by Becca Stevens
Photos by Carolyn Snell