Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Resolutions


There is a 4,000-year-old tradition of making New Year’s resolutions according to The year-end is a perfect time to reflect back and set goals. I haven’t set very many New Year’s resolutions, apart from my continual resolution to lose five pounds and exercise more. I just wait for Ash Wednesday and make my resolutions then. Resolutions are simply decisions to either do something or refrain from doing something. We resolve to make amends or change, not just on January 1st or on Ash Wednesday, but when we feel like we need to do something different. It isn’t hard to make them. The problem lies in keeping them.

We need community to keep resolutions. For example, If you resolve to practice Yoga in 2013, it helps to have a friend to sign up with, a class to go to, children who are patient when dinner is late, and a workplace that offers you time to go. Anyone seeking recovery knows they need a community to hold them up and hold them accountable. We need each other because the role the community plays in the nature and implementation of resolutions is huge.

But beyond community helping foster individual resolutions, there are communal resolutions because as the community thrives, our individual lives of faith thrive. Common resolutions foster the common good, which affects us all. The gift we offer one another is to live out our faith together. We promise to be there for one another in good and bad times, that we will hold each other up and hold each other accountable, and that by being together the sum will be greater than its parts.  Common resolutions should be at the heart of our resolutions since they are key to living in gratitude and meaning in our lives.

St. John Chrysostom lived in the 4th century and was the archbishop of Constantinople. His preaching echoed the themes of hospitality and charity as noted in Matthew 25“when you did this to the least of these, you did it unto me." He spoke eloquently about the need for all Christians to work together towards the common purpose of caring for one other. "This is the rule of most perfect Christianity, its most exact definition, its highest point, namely, the seeking of the common good ... for nothing can so make a person an imitator of Christ as caring for neighbors."

The early Christian communities were rooted in a common concern for one another in worship and service. In the readings this week for the celebration of Holy Family, in the letter of Paul to the Galatians, he says that we are all children of God. In other words, related. We are all heirs together, bound by the wellness of the whole community. The story of the birth of Jesus as told in the Gospel is the story of a community of faith, recognizing the gift of Jesus, celebrating with the family, and ultimately helping make sure the child was safeguarded. Not just for Mary and Joseph, but for the sake of the whole community. It took the shepherds, the magi, the parents and a slew of people to get the Holy Family to Egypt and back.

Recently, a new resident came to Magdalene directly from prison from another state with nothing. She came into community with common goals and purpose. She told me that a when she arrived, her new roommate gave her clothes, shampoo, new underwear, and towels. She said she had never been treated with such kindness. Right after she said it I wanted to say, “well you know its because your roommate had just received all of those things so she just gave you what was given to her.” But as soon as the thought popped into my head, I knew that is just what we all do. We think at first that we give to others as if it was ours in the first place, when truly it was given to us and we just share it. Whether it is a towel, a prayer, or a common resolution to share with the world. This is the week to celebrate and make some common resolutions for 2013.

My hope is that we can resolve to:

1.  Celebrate each week the newest people in the circle as the honored guests of the banquet.

2.  Launch the cafe and the sewing studio.

3.  Hone the message of inclusion and love without judgment.

4.  Open a new residence inside and outside the prison walls.

5.  Cast our nets wider and speak unapologetically as a unique community without formal membership about freedom offered, when we focus on right action, not right thought.

We are called to love the world, so we all have to keep changing to love it better.  We need a community with a common resolve to help us live into our resolve for the sake of the world.

Peace and love,
Becca Stevens---
Thistle Farmer

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Timeless Gift of Christmas

Time seems rigid; it marches us forward and waits for no one. It ticks away years off lives and carves our pasts in stone.  Tonight, we celebrate that Christmas doesn’t adhere to the rules of time. Time turns to liquid in Christmas’ presence. It becomes merely a fluid concept through which we can travel. All at once, we can be carried back two thousand years to the story of the birth of Jesus and then, in the next breath, we can remember a Christmas from childhood, or wonder about what tomorrow will hold. It is a powerful spirit that can break open time and offer it to us like a soothing hot tea. When we drink from it, we move into the space where the temporal and eternal kiss and believe things we spend our days questioning. When we taste the Christmas spirit we can imagine a peaceable future, a reconciled past, and present filled with the gift of hope.

Photo by Peggy Napier

Last week in the circle at Thistle Farms, the spirit of Christmas settled into the room. We had outpaced all internet sales, had raised enough money to open the new cafe to welcome seven new employees, had hosted - under Carole’s leadership - 51 events, and watched LaTisha, who works in shipping, drive up in - what she calls - her first “legal car." So, 50 of us gathered like we do every week, and immediately the tears flowed. Time was set aside in that space to make room for a spirit that held us captive. Women, without prompting or rehearsal, recalled Christmas pasts spent on the streets, looking for money and eating White Castles out of hotel rooms rented by the hour. Women remembered childhoods of visiting their Moms in prison, or grieving having no memories of Christmas at all.  Women wept as they grieved relatives and friends they had lost or who were sick this Christmas. Then a woman talked about celebrating the birth of Jesus for the first time in her life. The conversation moved freely into comments about Christmas present and the joy of being in community. In that circle, we traveled through Christmas seasons with each other, not boxed in by time but moving through memory and hope.

Photo by Stacye Wilson

The story of the birth of Jesus in The Gospel of Luke begins this way. He sets the time and place. The emperor Cesar Augustus in 4 A.D. called for a census. Quirinius was Governor of Syria. Into that unpeaceful occupied nation, burdened with the same themes of suffering and politicizing that we know, the story begins. It begins by rooting the birth in the stump of Jesse. It seems like into this space the people will need a militaristic messiah who can fight against all the injustices. But even as Joseph and Mary entered Bethlehem and had a baby, the birth broke through it all like an angel.  Into that particular time and location where the violence of poverty called Mary and Joseph to birth in a barn, Love, manifested in the Christ Child, burst forth and shattered time and space. Suddenly Angels sing from dark nights. When we taste the eternal present in our midst, our hearts stir and we rip open the box we have been held by. Inside is the vision of Isaiah, that promises the yoke of burden and the rod of the oppressor, is broken and the boots of the tramping warriors will be burned as fuel for the fire.  For a child has come to break through all time and space and He is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. When time is torn asunder in the presence of love all the other mythical absolutes that we are bound by are shattered. We are allowed to dream timeless dreams and speak of peace and hope. We are welcomed into a new space where then and when turn simply into here and now. And it will be this way forever.

So the gift is offered to you and to me this night.  We are given the gift of standing together, the homeless and cosseted, the wounded and innocent, the cynical and guiless and work towards women's freedom and healing from the oldest wounds this world has known. Accepting the gift means that the Christmas spirit lives in us and tomorrow is already here. Whether we grieve or shout for joy in this moment. Whether we are run ragged by solitude or family. Whether we believe it all or not. The gift is given to us.


Merry Christmas -
The Rev. Becca Stevens

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Witness

The following video and note came from our dear friend and super-volunteer, Marcie Brolund.

Thought you all would enjoy these video highlights of moments I've shared with the women this year. From exercise to gardening, smoking cessation classes, driving lessons, pressure washing, cooking together and craft times, to cleaning together, and refinishing outdoor furniture, we have had some GREAT moments. I have also been privileged to see some of them get new cars, new homes, and witness other special touching moments. What a blessing to witness up close and personal how Love Heals!  The first song was recorded by Jennifer Whitmore, a young girl who had come along with me for the better part of the year before she left for college. 

Marcie, thank you for being such an integral part of our our community and being a true witness to the healing power of love.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Reflections From A Student

This spring, Shana, Dorris, Becca and Tim went to Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. This fall, we received the following letter from one of the students who attended the event where we spoke.

Dear Magdalene Community: 
Earlier this year, a few women from the Magdalene community came to Elizabethtown College to talk to us about the Thistle Farms program.  I wanted to thank you for informing us about your magnificent program.  As an occupational therapy student, I realize the importance and need for a program like Thistle Farms.  I know that even when a survivor is out of the immediate troubling situation, it can still affect the individual’s daily life occupations.  Areas of work, education, home management, parenting, leisure, and social participation may all be affected.  
It was a powerful experience to hear the womens' stories about how far they have come and how much they have grown through the wonderful community of Magdalene.  The women of the Magdalene community join hands to provide each other security, protection, and strength.  Women from all different lifestyles come together and form this incredible bond and relationship that strengthens each other more each day.  They encourage each other to believe in themselves and to recognize they have the opportunity to start a new life. The womens' testimonies of how they survived and intervened with their lives, sheds so much hope to the women just starting out on this journey.  The bravery and courage of the women of Magdalene provides gifts of life and growth, which demonstrates more love and respect than anyone could attempt to explain. 
To me, the community of Magdalene truly exemplifies continuous love; which speaks volumes to an outsider looking into your community.  I love that Thistle Farms program illustrates the beauty, strength, and worth of a woman and expresses how love can conquer everything.  Through the unconditional love the Magdalene women have to offer, it conveys the truth that EVERY woman deserves a life filled with gifts; gifts of hope, strength, and love. 
I want to acknowledge the womens' hard work and continuous effort throughout their journey.  In addition, I need to commend the women on their remarkable strength and devotion to helping their fellow Magdalene members.  By overcoming their own personal struggles and obstacles, they are creating a difference not only in their life, but also in the Magdalene community, and in others lives as well.  The women of Magdalene community live by way of example of what truly genuine love and support looks like. 
Ashton Morgan, MOTS

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us, Ashton! We are so glad to have had a chance to meet you and are grateful for sharing your thoughts with us.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Hope In Rwanda

This fall, we welcomed Dr. Nicolas Hitimana, Founding Director of Ikirezi, a farming co-operative in Rwanda that serves genocide widows and orphans, to Nashville. Seven women from Thistle Farms met Nicholas in 2008 on our trip to Rwanda. It was then that we began a partnership to blend Ikirezi’s geranium essential oils with a Thistle Farms recipe to make a natural bug repellant

Nicholas came and spoke to us about the value chain in this world, and how it is the producers that are usually at the bottom of that chain. He said that by creating social enterprises and successful partnerships, we move the producers directly to the consumer and increase their place on that value chain. Our partnership with the farmers of Ikirezi is encouraging to them because they know their stories are being heard in the world. Nicholas closed by saying the most valuable gift he has been given is hearing widows and orphans from the 1994 genocide speak about hope and forgiveness. 

One of the Thistle Farms' employees said, "Having Nicholas and the aroma of African geranium finally land on our soil after 5 months of waiting made me realize the sacredness of this cooperative."

We were all inspired by Nicholas’ grace and passion to work towards reconciliation and freedom for women who have suffered so much. 

To hear Nicholas' sermon, click HERE.
To learn more about Ikirezi Natural Products, click HERE.
To order Thistle Farms Geranium Spray, click HERE.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Lift Off!

On Wednesday, November 13th, after a dedication liturgy, several women of Thistle Farms cut the purple ribbon that officially opened the new utility elevator at the manufacturing facility.

The lift enables the women to move supplies and products back and forth between shipping and production. This ends the long tradition of hauling heavy boxes and buckets up and down the stairs or pushing product on carts around the building.

The utility elevator is the fruit of a project by a Franklin business called Improbable Philanthropy. Al Andrews, the owner, wanted to be a philanthropist, but philanthropists have lots of money. He didn’t. So he wrote a children’s book called The Boy, the Kite, and the Wind, with the hope of making lots of money and giving away all of the net profits from to various charities around the world.

Last year, he had a conversation with Becca and asked her what she needed at Thistle Farms. The need was an elevator. Thus The Lift Project was launched. Check out the film HERE and read Al's story of his involvement with Thistle Farms HERE.

After selling nearly 2000 books, enough money was raised to build the lift. And on Wednesday, the women of Thistle Farms honored Al by naming the lift “The Alevator,” concluding their liturgy with a rousing chorus of “Love Lifted Me.”

We are so thankful to the generosity of Al and his wife, Nita, who are integral members of our community and who have demonstrated that love not only heals... but it also lifts.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Year Long Gift

This is a wonderful season. I love the winter when the leaves fall and you can see the cardinals and mistletoe easily. It's the time to give and receive gifts. As a not for profit in retail sales, the season is particularly sweet. The summer has it's own gifts, but it's a harder season for us as sales dwindle and payroll stretches our faith. Finally, at Thistle Farms, there is a way to make your beautiful end of the year gift last all year long and carry us through the long dog days of summer. We are so proud to introduce to you for the very first time, the Thistle Farmers Club. We hope to get our first hundred subscribers before the first of the year. Thank you for believing in the women of Thistle Farms, all year long.

Peace and love,
Becca Stevens---
Thistle Farmer

Be a Thistle Farmer

Thistle Farms is excited to offer the Thistle Farmer Club membership for customers who want a convenient way to receive a special, curated package of Thistle Farms products every other month.

Join the movement for women’s freedom by supporting the work of Thistle Farms, a social enterprise of women who have survived prostitution, trafficking and addiction. Your membership to the Thistle Farmer Club will sustain the women, the community and the world. 

How it Works  
  • Starting in January 2013, you will  receive 6 shipments of Thistle Farms natural and handmade body care products, sent every other month, PLUS 2 free gifts.
  • Cost is $30 per shipment (FREE shipping included).

Thistle Farmer Club Curated Packages for 2013: 

For more information, go to our Online Store and proudly become part of the Thistle Farmer club!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thistle Farms Paper Studio

The Paper Studio at Thistle Farms has been expanding during 2012 to offer a new collection of well-designed and carefully executed handmade creations.  In February, the paper team moved its operation into a dedicated studio space with one area for pulp production and papermaking, and another for bookbinding, sewing and paper construction.

In April, a new piece of equipment, affectionately known as the Critter, went into operation. Suddenly, we could produce a smoother more flexible version of our traditional paper made from dried thistle blossoms and recycled bags and cardboard. In addition, the Critter can break down the fibers of old cotton t-shirts and sheets, which, combined with thistle fibers, produces a fine quality buff colored rag paper appropriate for bookbinding. This new rag paper is often decorated with flower petals, seeds, leaves and even tinted with food coloring. The Paper Studio is proud to say that we are turning trash into cash!

The Magdalene employees in the Paper Studio work as a team dedicated to creative production. By increasing the quantity and quality of our paper, we have been able to develop a wide range of new designs. A group of devoted volunteers began joining the team every week to help in the production of books and gift items, increasing our production while reducing our labor cost. Many of our volunteers are skilled artisans, and their gift of time and talent is greatly appreciated. In addition to our expanded gift line, the Paper Studio has accepted several special commissions this year, including graduation invitations, journals and CD covers.

As demand continues to grow for our journals, greeting cards, bookmarks, gift tags and ornaments, the Critter is working hard every day to produce an adequate supply of paper pulp. The raw materials for our products cost very little, so most of the money received  from sales goes directly into labor. In the Paper Studio, employees and volunteers laugh, share and work together to produce well crafted gift items, but, more importantly, to bring more women off the streets and into the healing circle of Magdalene/Thistle Farms.

To view photos from our beautiful paper studio, click HERE.

To purchase Thistle Farms paper studio products, click HERE.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

October Road

Thistle Farms is on the road this October and we want to meet YOU!

The Thistle Farms sales team -- Cynthia P. & Shana (pictured above) and Gaile & Jordan (pictured below) will be visiting some of our favorite Whole Foods stores in Chattanooga and Atlanta and we would love to see you. Try out our products, sample our delicious scents and meet some of the women who make and sell the products by hand.

Stop by and send us your thoughts and photos from your visit on our Facebook  and Twitter pages.

Thursday, October 18

Greenlife Grocery Chattanooga: 3:00pm - 6:00pm
301 Manufacturers Rd., Chattanooga 37405

Friday, October 19

Whole Foods Market Sandy Springs: 3:00pm - 5:30pm
5930 Roswell Road NE, Sandy Springs 30328

Cobb Harry's Farmers Market Marietta: 3:30pm - 6:00pm
70 Powers Ferry Rd. SE, Marietta 30067

Saturday, October 20

Whole Foods Buckhead: 10:30am - 1:30pm
77 West Paces Ferry Rd NW, Atlanta 30305

Whole Foods Market Sandy Springs: 11:00am - 2:00pm
5930 Roswell Road NE, Sandy Springs 30328

Whole Foods Ponce De Leon: 3:00pm - 5:30pm
650 Ponce de Leon Ave NE, Atlanta 30308

Whole Foods Briarcliff: 3:30pm - 6:00pm
2111 Briarcliff Rd NE, Atlanta 30329

Sunday, October 21

Johns Creek Duluth: 11:00am - 2:00pm
5945 State Bridge Road, Duluth 30097

Alpharetta Harry's: 12:00pm - 2:30pm
1180 Upper Hembree Rd., Roswell 30076

Photos by Peggy Napier

Monday, October 8, 2012

Chestnut & Sage: A Recap

The American Chestnut tree was the queen of the southeastern forests at the beginning of the twentieth century. Its nuts provided food for wildlife, hardwood for the railroad, fencing for farmers, and graceful shade. In 1904, a devastating fungus was introduced and by 1950, 3 billion trees American Chestnut trees had died. Today the number of surviving trees over 2 feet in diameter is fewer than 100. Communities are nurturing this tree and once again it is beginning to thrive. Thistle Farms is growing one in our own urban garden. It is our  small tribute to resilience and hard work, a living metaphor about healing and growth.

On Thursday, October 4th, more than 850 supporters of Magdalene and Thistle Farms celebrated our 15th year of welcoming women home from the street supporting in recovery with treatment and work. Gretchen Peters and John Prine sang songs about freedom and release.  Magdalene residents shared  essays and poems about the revival of the chestnut tree and the healing power of sage. Becca Stevens, our founder, reflected on work in the ‘beautiful, troubled fields’ of Magdalene and Thistle Farms, where women are revived and healed through love. The Nashville community responded with gifts and pledges within $10,000 of our reaching our goal of $300,000 to support our programs for the next three years. We are grateful and inspired by both the women of Magdalene and Thistle Farms and our donors.

Founder Becca Stevens gave a reflection last Thursday night about chestnut trees, sage, revival and healing:

There is nothing sweeter than seeing a dream come alive before your waking eyes. Nothing revives your spirit like the promise of a community gathered in a spirit of love. Nothing moves you to action like seeing the regeneration of a majestic chestnut or a new resident of Magdalene embrace the healing power of love. 

This summer as temperatures climbed into the 100's, a small group drove to the sage field on Rick’s property in Maury County. It had been our hope to grow a sage field to harvest in order to make our own healing essential oils in the Joanne Cato still. When we arrived at the field, the size and quality of the sage was a bit shocking. The plants’ leaves were turning black as if they were being scorched in the sun. I turned to one of the women farming and said, “Oh, Lord, what are we supposed to do?” 

“Weed and water,” she said.

There is something beautiful about a vision of a vast and perfect field; there is something deeper and more tender in the truth of a troubled field that will not survive without a community tending it. A vision without work fades in the morning light. A vision that can sustain a dying crop is love made manifest. There is no revival of sage or chestnut trees, no miracle for the women of Magdalene, without days and years of watering with sweat and tears.   

Magdalene and Thistle Farms are beautiful troubled fields with deep roots like the sage that doubles its yield in a single season. Magdalene and Thistle Farms have seen new shoots sprout up this year that will produce exponentially greater harvests.

We have never been just residential communities or a social enterprise, but a movement that calls us to go to troubled fields to use our God-given gifts to reap a harvest that can feed us all. This gathering holds the hope for all who want to believe LOVE HEALS.

There is so much work to do in our fields. Sometimes a hundred women are waiting to come in. Sometimes there is not enough work at Thistle Farms to keep us manufacturing. Sometimes it is as daunting as a wilting crop of sage, but we never waiver in vision or hope. We are developing a national model of sister communities and believe someday we will grow into a movement big enough that we will help change the world so that child sex abuse is not a secret.  Where young women raped feel like they will see justice. Where there is no tolerance for the buying and selling of human beings. Where women feel like they can seek help with addictions without fear. Where there are enough recovery homes offering long-term community-based healing with meaningful work.

I was recently with Doris, Thistle Farms Packing Manager and a graduate of Magdalene, on her first flight. Doris has known trauma and the horrors of the streets for years. She and I were traveling to an event called “Take Back the Night” in Pennsylvania. As the plane was ascending Doris couldn’t believe the beauty of the clouds from the top-side. She was laughing and smiling and asked me if I thought this was as close to God as she would ever be in this world. I told her, “I don’t know, but honestly, your face is the closest image to the face of God I have glimpsed.” 

It's time to weed and water our fields again.

Peace and Love,
Becca Stevens
Thistle Farmer 

For a reflection on the chestnut tree by Magdalene graduate & Thistle Farmer, Jennifer, go HERE.

For more photos of the event, go to our Facebook Page Photo Album.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Five Questions With... Nita

Highly creative,
highly dedicated
and highly loved,
meet another fabulous volunteer - 
Nita Andrews
in her
Five Questions With...

1.  How often do you volunteer at Thistle Farms? 
I volunteer occasionally on Monday mornings and consistently on Wednesday mornings.

2.  How did you find out about us? 
I found out about Thistle Farms when my husband's ministry, Porter's Call, included Becca Stevens in an evening where great storytellers and musicians give voice to the stories that matter most to them. I listened over and over again to Becca's way of loving and empowering women through the non-profit she launched over ten years ago. I wanted to meet the women that might die if left out of love's front door. A sales team came that night and I loved seeing how they listened to others, even while they showcased their bath and body products. Then I found a few audio chapters of Becca's book, Hither and Yon, on a blog. I was a bit needy at the time and the truths I heard there kept me alive. In time, I was glad to be alive and I was aware that Thistle Farms would be the right place for me to learn about compassion, sacrifice, and healing. I wasn't much different from the women caught in a hopeless spiral of addiction and abuse at the hands of drug dealers and criminals. I live in Franklin, but I ache just as much as they do to tell a better story with my life. I believed during those dark months that some day my voice could sound as hopeful as the women I met at the merch table that night at the 2011 Evening of Stories.  

You may know how this goes in your life … for months, love haunted me but I couldn't muster up the faith or hope to get dressed and arrive on a day volunteers swarm Thistle Farms. I suspected that I would never be able to dabble in loving this way... it would be "all in" as they say in gambling.  It took a bit of time for me to find my courage. I prayed the serenity prayer and let trust grow over time. It also helped that my husband made his way to the circle a week before I did. He is always there now. I love that! We drive to Nashville every week from Franklin. Not much can stand in the way of the circle time. It is the highlight of every week.  

3.  What have you done as a volunteer at Thistle Farms? 
I have helped at a party and I helped make framed gifts for all of the graduates last spring. Mainly, I go every week to give my artistic input to the Paper Studio. I am a visual artist, so it was thrilling for me to see the paper studio the first day that I volunteered at Thistle Farms.  I took the tour with capable guides and learned about this aspect of manufacturing paper and building a product line and I never looked back.  

Since last spring, I have made several thistle paper based paintings. I stay awake some nights dreaming of new ways to branch out into new ventures with our creativity team. I love artisanal papers and love to see new applications for them, but not as much as I love the atmosphere around the table each week! You haven't lived until you sit at the feet of a dozen women from of all walks of life that talk about original grace, outlandish gratitude for simple things, and the best way to make a paper birdhouse.

4. What's a favorite moment in your volunteer experience with us?
One day, the studio needed to use my truck to pick up some heavy mat board. Two of us drove out of Nashville to a framing shop in Hermitage. We arrived and, to my shock, we were welcomed as if we were celebrities. I couldn't stop laughing at how crazy nice these people were. They had held back so much expensive framing paper and mat board that they said, "we hope to drown you in it!" They kept loading our arms full and we kept filling the truck.  I knew that for months to come, the studio would have what it needed to beef up the recipe for the cotton rag paper -- all from this one donation. It was so fulfilling and such an easy step to take: to match our need with cut outs that they would otherwise throw away after making custom mats for art and photographs. Jennifer and I said our goodbyes and on a hot day in July, we stepped outside the store to head home.  We looked at each like tweeners that had just had an hour 'shooting the breeze' with Justin Bieber.  What do you do with that kind of joy? Well, spontaneously we found our happy feet and semi-shouted our thanks and praise... at a strip mall. People were watching. It was such fun! I don't know if the cheerful givers inside the store saw our unbridled gratitude, but I think it would have brought a tear.

That day, it was an honor to represent Thistle Farms as "adults" on a mission and keep our cool while we were inside the business establishment, but then to "let it rip" when we got two feet out the door. We were happy for dreams coming a step closer for the paper studio and we praised the heavens like the children we are on the inside. That day taught me that gratitude keeps me a young 54. And the best gratitude is about others arriving. I have no doubt after volunteering as long as I have at Thistle Farms that I am the lucky one. I get to have dear, broken open, Magdalene graduates mentor me in the art of gratitude. 

5. Use one word to describe your experience so far.   

Nita, you have transformed our paper room!
We are truly grateful and you are so loved.

If you want to get involved with Thistle Farms, 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Five Questions With... Jenni

She tutors the women,
she wipes down candles
and she wears the blue hair net while in the production area.

She's Jenni Joy, 
our featured volunteer of the week!

Here's another Five Questions With... interview.

1.  How often do you volunteer at Thistle Farms?
Weekly, on Wednesdays.  
I also volunteer at Magdalene on Thursdays. 

2.  How did you find out about us?
Good word of mouth.

3.  What have you done as a volunteer at Thistle Farms?
I have worked in the manufacturing area some 
and have also worked in the papermaking department.  
I also tutor some of the women.

4.  Please share a favorite moment in your volunteer experience with us.
The moment I knew the women realized I would be back.  

5.  Use one word to describe your experience so far.
(Leave it to the tutor to tutor to employ the hyphen!)

Jenni - you bring US joy!

If you want to get involved with Thistle Farms, 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Chestnut & Sage: A Preview

On September 5th, Thistle Farms gathered Hosts for our upcoming fundraiser "Chesnut and Sage: Stories of Love and Revival" on October 4. The Magdalene Fall Fundraiser is the financial foundation for the organization and Hosts help introduce the organization to new friends each year. In addition to getting tours of Thistle Farms, Hosts learned about the event and enjoyed Chestnut and Sage soup. Hosts also learned about the American Chestnut tree and growing sage -- two symbols that will be explored at the event on October 4th through readings, music and a reflection from founder Becca Stevens. 

Kay West and Lisa Froeb, our Chestnut & Sage soup makers

Laini Brown, Chestnut & Sage Host and publicist 
from Jericho Books
(publishers of Becca's 2013 book, Snake Oils)

Rita, Monique, Becca, Fiona Prine (Chestnut & Sage Chair), Cary & Katrina

Guests do not have to be invited by a Host to attend. The event is free but requires an RSVP here. Seating is limited and is subject to availability. Musical guests this year will be John Prine and Gretchen Peters and the event chair is Fiona Prine. Join us for an evening to learn about the healing power of love and continue to provide a sanctuary for women from the streets and jail for another year.

Read more here of Jennifer's thoughts about the Chestnut tree 
and her own path to healing.

Read here about the planting of our sage field.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Making The Switch

During her time at MTSU, Stacia Jenkins chose Thistle Farms as a local non-profit to study and deliver an oral presentation about at the end of the semester. Stacia had hand picked Thistle Farms out of the countless charities in Nashville, not because she was a follower on Facebook or because of the good works she had heard they do, but because of her discovery of their products... in her employer’s bathroom.

“I was working at an international health company during the summer of 2011 and after using the restroom, I noticed the hand soap at the sink.” Stacia explains. “Once I washed my hands, I read the card behind the bottle, which described the organization behind the soap. I was amazed about what Thistle Farms was doing and was impressed that a local company were hand-making products to heal the mind, body and spirit.”

Stacia went on to select Thistle Farms for her class project, but the simple idea of discovering our mission in an employers’ bathroom has all of us dreaming about a much bigger picture. 

What an easy and effective way to show your support of Thistle Farms -- by making the switch to using our all natural, handmade soap in your company's bathroom. 

Since you already use hand soap for your company and/or business, why not share the message that "love heals" with your employees and customers with Thistle Farms' hand soap. Not only will you be supporting a community of women who have survived lives of addiction, prostitution and trafficking, but you are also using a top notch product that leave your hands smelling fresh and clean. 

There are also other bathroom-friendly products, like hand lotion and room spray, that are a perfect addiction for any small or large business... and bathroom!

You can purchase our hand soap at our online store or for more information for large orders, contact And join other local social-conscious businesses by making the switch.