Sunday, July 25, 2010

Find Your Way Home Prison Tour: Houston, TX

St. John's Downtown United Methodist Church and Pastor Rudy Rasmus were our hosts for our recent visit to Houston as part of the Find Your Way Home Prison Tour. We got to be a part of worship that was truly inspired and will impact the way I lead my own congregation. We sold $3,000 worth of Thistle Farms products and made new friends.

The journey to the prison in Humble, Texas was surreal. I am still trying to let the knowledge that there is no airconditioning in a prison in Texas sink in. Then the image of police officers on horse back with inmates farming makes me think it may be an image from a movie and that it wasn't real.

But then I remember sitting in a room as women told their stories and the musicians sang and I remember it all----and that it was really just yesterday that I got to go to that revival. I was grateful to be there and be a part of it. I love that even though it is a hard journey that takes a lot out of everyone to get there and make it all happen, everyone keeps coming together to make it work.

I am imagining that there are some women sitting around today on their bunk beds as close to the fans as they can get with their white pants rolled up, and they are reading from the books we left. That thought makes me cry.

Love and peace,

We are grateful to Abingdon Press Editor, Jessica Kelley, for her photos and personal experience story on her blog.

For more pictures from our trip, visit our Flickr page. For more information on the tour, visit the Abingdon Press page.

Story by Becca Stevens
Photos by Jessica Kelley

Friday, July 23, 2010

First Production Day

Today we made or first production in our new facility! The candle team, spearheaded by Tasha, made the very first candles, gosh, the very first anything in our new digs. It was amazing to actually have the space to spread out and lay out everything we needed. Then the team split into work stations to measure, pour, melt and mix. Gosh, did I say we had stations, plural, like more than one table to work on now? Yes, it was so hard for us to realize it - it really happened - we have a huge new facility to call our home! Thanks to everyone on the Thistle Farms production team.

Great job from everyone today!

Sonya sets the cotton wicks in the candle jars

Tasha weighs out the organic lavender oil for the candles

Putting the wax in to melt

The beautiful Tasha and the finished product!

story & photos by Julie, part of the Thistle Farms Production Team

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Moving Day

This week, we have been moving into our new Thistle Farms home in Nashville at 5122 Charlotte Ave. It is a gift and a product of countless hours of dreaming, prayer and hard work from a growing community that continues to witness to the truth that love is the most powerful force for change we know. We are making this move with 29 women who are pioneers and continue to grow on their journey to recovery. There is a mountain of work still to do, but every step we will take in gratitude. Thank you, all, come by and see us make some thistle paper, and sit in the circle. Sometimes I can't believe how far we have come, sometimes I can't believe how far we still have to travel, but I always believe we are moving in the right direction.

by Becca Stevens

volunteer group from St. Louis ready to work

gathering in the circle

many more candles to be made in the new manufacturing area

we are grateful to the volunteers who helped us move boxes and furniture into the new location

awesome helpers from St. Matthews in Sterling VA

helping Gwen in the basement

lots of boxes to unpack!

assembling sales & marketing offices

working in all corners (and ceilings)

products ready to be purchased

a great group from St. Louis

our beautiful new home.... welcome.

photos by Carolyn Snell

Monday, July 19, 2010

Art Show To Continue Through August

A note of thanks to those who were able to come to the opening reception of the Magdalene & Friends Art Show on July 3rd. We are also grateful to all of the artists who donated their work.

We have been invited to keep our show up through the month of August. If you did not have the opportunity to view the work or you wish to see it once again, please stop by the Downtown Presbyterian Church at the corner of 5th and Church Street for another Art Crawl night on Saturday, August 7th from 6pm - 9pm. Or you can drop by the church from now through August. You will enter through the church office and might wish to call Angela (615-354-4741) so that she will be at her desk to receive you.

There is a wide range of art-- suitable to all tastes and price ranges. All proceeds will support the community of Magdalene. Your purchase will enable us to continue to fulfill our mission to bring women from homelessness into a sanctuary where love is the most powerful force for change in the world.

For questions and information call Carole at 615-298-1140.

Photo by Carole Hagan

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Visit to Thistle Farms

A week ago, I had the opportunity to visit Thistle Farms, and I was struck by how honest the women are: before any work is done, they sit in a circle and share their brokenness. In a culture obsessed with emphasizing the ego and hiding faults, it was such a breath of fresh air to be around women who have no problem showing their wounds. It is, in fact, what seems to make their community so solid; their willingness to share each others true selves--no matter how painful--becomes the foundation on which their work rests. At Thistle Farms, the truth sets them free to work without pretension and in community.

I was able to share a few songs along with my mom during their meditation time: "I Will Change Your Name," "Down By The Riverside," and one I wrote called "Communion Hymn." All three songs have lyrics that celebrate the truth that beauty, wholeness, and redemption can come when we feel the most worthless, the most out of control. I hope the songs really resonated with the women, and I was honored to be a part of their day.

My favorite memory, though, was when we split up to do different tasks. I ended up helping a woman named Grace by giving her some drawing tips for her own artwork. It felt so great to empower someone else to continue to develop their gifts. I'm currently pursuing a masters in Theology and Art; I think it's safe to say that I was living at the intersection of those two worlds when I visited Thistle Farms.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

For Rosalyn

This past weekend, a woman was beaten to death here in Nashville. I don't remember reading about the police finding her body on Monday or the fact that they could not identify her. She was found on the 4th of July though and there was a lot going on. On Wednesday morning when they were finally able to identify her, I learned in a staff meeting that she was a friend of mine. She was a graduate of Magdalene, two-year residential communities for women who have survived lives of abuse, addiction, prostitution and violence.

Rosalyn was a beautiful woman who overcame huge obstacles to reclaim her life and become independent. She was a quiet learner and dedicated in her life of prayer. I remember one afternoon going to bless her home after she had over two years clean from life on the streets and in jail. She was so proud of all she had accomplished. I remember that she was unwavering in her desire to stay clean and sober and was a hard worker. Rosalyn had endured a difficult life and consequently made some rash choices, but she was a survivor and dauntless in her recovery. In her last year she suffered the loss of her job, her home, her car, and almost all of her worldly possessions before she was murdered.

This loss is a painful loss, and as the news is sinking in, I find myself grieving for more than my friend Rosalyn. I grieve for all women who are still suffering on our streets, vulnerable to being beaten beyond recognition and even to death. If we allow ourselves the privilege of grieving Rosalyn, there is the possibility that our hearts can break with all the heaviness in this world from the senseless violence and private suffering. But there is also the possibility that our grief will embolden us to love more powerfully and work more diligently in our efforts to be about healing. My heart goes out to Rosalyn's family and to all her sisters in Magdalene who loved her.

Today we will mourn her with much respect and fond memories. We will celebrate the years she knew clean and sober and all the gifts she offered our community. We will hold each other a little closer and worry about other women who are walking the streets tonight. We will pray for the mystery of recovery to take root and bring them home safely. And we will continue to work hard to be witnesses to the truth that in the end love is the most powerful force for change in all of our lives. And we will continue to go and speak our truth in the alleys and in the prisons and in religious communities about how it is that the life of a beautiful child of God like Rosalyn ended so senselessly and how we can all make use of our sadness by bringing women home.