Friday, March 30, 2012

First Flight

It is a joy to travel with the women from Thistle Farms. One of the many reasons is that for some of the women over the years, I have gotten to witness the wonder of their first flight. The laughter as a plane starts down the runway. The wide eyed look as they witness clouds from the top side. The gratitude they feel no matter where they are sitting or how long we sit on the tarmac. The trip this week to Pennsylvania with Shana and Dorris was filled with joy for me. As we were ascending, Shana pulled out her cell phone and started taking pictures of Old Hickory Lake. I didn't remind her that she wasn't supposed to have her phone on.  Instead, I loved seeing her look at the lake from an aerial view. Dorris then said she wondered if this was the closest to God she would ever get before heaven. I told her I thought she was as close to God as I had felt all week.  I'm always grateful for this work. I'm grateful to spread the mission of Thistle Farms, but tonight, I'm grateful that Tim and I get to travel home with shana and Doris on a magical flight.

Peace and love,
Becca Stevens---
Thistle Farmer

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Hour

A reflection on John 12:27-29

Hours don't pass evenly like the rhythm of chimes on a grandfather clock. They speed by and then pull up to a halt. Some stretch out long enough to wrap around our hearts and live in memory while others are a still life shot that flashes into our brains every now and then. Most hours fade into the sweet forgotten by and by of our past. To me, an hour is like a long short story. It’s long enough to soak through lentils, but doesn’t last long enough to soften black beans. We can fly to Florida in an hour, drive to Manchester, get diagnosed, or be freed.

As Lent creeps toward Good Friday we move with Jesus to what is known as the Gethsemane of John. It is where Jesus says that finally, his hour has come. So many hours have passed since the beginning of this Gospel where he described what it means to be so loved. There have been hours where he has healed, retreated, grieved his friend Lazarus, and been anointed for burial. We all know what he means when he says the hour has come. He means that of all the hours of his life, the hour of his death has come.

This is the climax and the culmination of what it means to so love. He tries to explain it by using the example of a grain of wheat that must fall to produce a greater yield. This is the hour where what we have lived for becomes how we are remembered. This reading is the prelude to his farewell discourse where he says there is no greater love than to lay down your life for a friend. We are called to live for love and pray we die glorifying love.

Two thousand years and 17 million hours later this truth has not changed. To live and die for love is the essence of discipleship. Death is the hour that seals our life and that we fear and face. We are put on this earth preparing to die. Death is the returning to ashes like the seed to the earth. That hour is the climax, and what Jesus teaches us is that even in that hour Love can be glorified.

Our Lenten journey is coming to an end, and like all journeys, it is right that it ends with a reflection on death. We began a month ago on the edge of the Lenten wilderness, praying for a revival of the heart. The prayer is that we make the journey while wrestling demons and seeing angels so that we can explode with “Alleluia!” by Easter. But I almost forgot that to get there we have to walk through this hour, not just in scripture but in our lives. When we accept this hour, we live and die to glorify love. It is hard to reflect on this, especially as all the fruit trees are blooming and the larkspur are rejoicing. But it is a gift when we can hear it as good news, as part of the gift of love. It is a gift to see this spring in the context of the sweet seeds of fall that were buried in the cold earth to give this new life such beauty and abundance.

Jesus reminds us in this Gospel that this is the holiest of hours. It is the hour we walk closest to our creator and hold on to the truth. All of us who have grieved loved ones know how hard it is to make it through this holy hour. It is so powerful that for a long time it eclipses all the other hours. It is the hour we sit through like labor and count breaths and watch and wait and pray and pray and pray. It is the hour we anticipate and fear in the middle of the night when shadows seem real and prayers feel hollow. It is the hour that is as hard and disillusioning as witnessing Love hanging from the crucifixes of our lives. In our lives of faith that hour still stands between us and Easter.

I have witnessed folks these past few weeks glorify their hour. There is a man who came to the Chapel for ashes on Ash Wednesday, and the next day his aorta exploded. He endured a 15 ½ hour surgery and a horrible infection that put him back on death’s doorstep in the ICU days later. Last week he said, "They thought I would die. I thought I would die, but this morning, lying here, watching the rain hit the window I have realized it doesn't get any better than this. I know that sounds crazy, and maybe I should want other things, but truly, I feel like listening to this rain, at this moment, it doesn't get better.” His eyes were filled with love that poured out in sweet streams on his cheeks. He had broken the hourglass and was living in an eternal moment where he saw it was filled with grains of sand that taken alone were enough to contemplate the wonder of the universe itself.

I have heard from others facing troubling hours from diagnosis, prison, death or separation talk about gratitude. I heard about an old friend who died alone in New York, and it seems like the hardest hour I can imagine. No one knows when her hour was or about all the circumstances, because it took so long to discover the body that they could only identify her by her tattoos. She was a fighter and a poet. I pray that in her hour that if her mind traveled in and out of all the hours she lived, it drifted to her years in Nashville with Magdalene and Thistle Farms and that she felt beloved even as she was alone in that hour. This Gospel assures me that in her hour she was lifted up and love didn't abandon her.

We can take even this hour, knowing that love is stronger and speaks the last word. It cannot be wiped out, just lifted up. The hour can be lived in this moment and stretched out to eternity, as we say, “It doesn't get better than this.” Being able to glorify love is not out of our reach. It's as close as your next thought to live for love right now. That is the revival of Lent—meeting our death in the wilderness and walking through it, and then living every hour with gratitude.

Peace and love,
Becca Stevens---
Thistle Farmer

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Thistle Stop Cafe Fundraiser

Thistle Farms is opening a café this year.  The Thistle Stop Café will be run by the women of Thistle Farms, and be located adjacent to the manufacturing facility. The Thistle Stop Cafe will be a welcoming space for people to nourish their bodies as well as their spirits. The large but intimate cafe will sell Nashville-based and fair-trade coffees, teas and catered food, which will support local vendors. Previously loved tables and chairs will be scattered throughout the room, offering customers and friends a place to rest and find sanctuary. A small stage will serve as a platform for women to share their stories of hope and healing.  Artists will be invited to share their creativity with musical performances and featured artwork. Groups and companies will use the space to conduct meetings and hold lunches.  
The Thistle Stop Cafe will also house the Thistle Farms store, which carries the entire line of Thistle Farms handmade natural bath and body care products. The cafe will be run by the same women who make the Thistle Farms products by hand -- the women of Magdalene. Through the creation of the Thistle Stop Cafe, women will learn new skills and training for restaurant and food-serving businesses and be provided with more hours and wages.  It will be an outward and visible sign of our mission to foster community and create new enterprising ventures. 


To facilitate the opening of the café, Thistle Farms will host a special event on April 11 with songwriters Desmond Child and Marcus Hummon, songwriters for Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Katy Perry, Ricky Martin, Rascal Flatts, Dixie Chicks and Tim McGraw. Marcus is a Grammy-winning writer with six #1 country songs, including "Bless the Broken Road," and Desmond's songs, such as "Livin' On a Prayer," and "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)," have sold 300 million records worldwide. On the 11th, Desmond and Marcus, and top Nashville singers, will perform songs from their Broadway musicals to help raise an additional $20,000 needed to open the café. 

If you can't be there, but would like to support Desmond and Marcus in this effort, visit our Crowdrise site here to make a contribution. To attend, here are the details: 
A Fundraiser for the Thistle Stop Café:

Broadway Babies!
The Broadway Songbooks of Marcus Hummon & Desmond Child

April 11
7:00 Curtain
(6:00 Doors open)

Location: 5128 Charlotte Pike, Nashville, TN 37209

Register HERE by April 8
Additionally Starring
Kim Bretton, Nick Duckart, Mike Eldred, Tabitha Fair, Michelle Nicolo Prentice, Chris Roberts 


Desmond Child songs from "Jazzage," "Lucy & Viv" and "Cuba Libre"
Marcus Hummon songs from "Francis of Guernica," The All-American" and "The Piper"

With an Grand Finale from Godspell - "Beautiful City" and "Day by Day" to be performed by entire cast and audience!

Hors d'ouevres are being provided by Sambuca Restaurant

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


stood in the pulpit as the 12th speaker in the 89th Lenten Series at Calvert Episcopal Church in Memphis, Tennessee today.  I stood in front of a wooden raredas painted gold that was more than 140 years old. It  sat beneath beautiful stained glass and overlooked walnut pews  Rarely as I go out and speak about the work of thistle farms do I get such a sense of stepping into history. It felt good to add the name of Thistle Farms to the long list of notable causes spiken of from that historic pulpit from across our country throughout time. It felt like a privilege to take my turn standing for a moment and speaking my truth. It is one of the oldest Lenten series I have ever heard about. After the sermon, we all ate a lunch made from recipes older than the raredas. Tomato aspic, chicken hash and derby pie. The people were gracious and listened and welcomed us and purchased lots of products. After the session we headed down to the river front to see Beale street. This is our third trip to Memphis, I hope someday we come back to help them open their own Sanctuary for women.  
Peace and love,  
Becca Stevens---Thistle Farmer

Friday, March 9, 2012

International Women's Day

In honor of International Women's Day yesterday, some of the women of Magdalene and Thistle Farms joined forces with other Nashville women on the Broadway Street Bridge to "to stand in solidarity with women in war-torn areas, celebrate the strength of women (past, present and future) and spread the message of peace."

Join Women On The Bridge is a campaign started in 2010 when women from Congo and Rwanda joined together on the bridge connecting their two countries, showing that they could build the bridges of peace and hope for the future. This action sparked a massive global movement, and last year they were joined by thousands of people on hundreds of bridges worldwide.

On International Women's Day, March 8th, thousands of people around the world stood with the women of war-torn countries to give them strength and to show we support their demands for peace and equality. Women are peace builders and with equality at the peace negotiation tables and governing bodies of their countries they will build a more peaceful world.