Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Services For Keesha

As we grieve the loss of Keesha Jordan, daughter of our beloved Sydney Jordan, we want to share the visitation and funeral information with our entire community. We hope you continue to hold them in your thoughts and prayers, as well as the recipients of Keesha's organs, who will have continued life because of her.

For those wanting to make donations in Keesha and Jordan's honor, checks can be made to:
Magdalene Inc.
Box 6330B
Nashville, TN 37235
Please put Keesha or Jordan in the memo.

Online gifts can be made HERE.
Please put Keesha or Jordan in the 'Purpose' field on Paypal.

Services are Friday and Saturday of this week.  People are asked to bring white balloons in honor of Keesha's memory.

Friday JUNE 1
Visitation  2:00pm - 6:00pm
Henry Lewis Smith Funeral Home
1503 Buchanan Street
Nashville, TN 37208
(615) 244-5044

Saturday JUNE 2
Visitation 11:00am - 12:00pm
Funeral 12:00pm
Gethsemane Baptist Church
3409 Brick Church Pike
Nashville, TN
(615) 262-9132

Greenwood Cemetery
1428 Elm Hill Pike
Nashville, TN 37210
(615) 256-4395

Monday, May 28, 2012

Weeping For Jordan

It's Sunday evening, and I am sitting on my couch near the kitchen with the ingredients I brought from the store still in bags. I stopped by the grocery around 1pm after leaving Intensive Care where Jordan, Gwen, and their family were saying goodbye to their five year old baby girl, Keesha. She has been kept alive the past 24 hours on a respirator after suffering a horrible accident on Saturday evening. Her hair is still in neat cornrows with shiny clear beads that look like tiny prisms. This morning, we offered prayers and anointed her with oil. The family wept and held onto each other as Psalms 139 and 23 were read.  I left as they continued to grieve this precious child who was pronounced dead at 2:57pm, May 27th. Sometimes when I leave a deathbed, I feel compelled to bake something and present it as an offering. It's like a silent ritual that has become a way to work out my grief. But today, when I got home with the ingredients, Jordan called to say that even though her baby girl died, she is still on a ventilator for another day so that Keesha’s organs can be donated. Jordan's call made me take to the couch. It feels like I want to raise a white flag and wave it and say, I surrender. Jordan is an orphan from Brazil who has described, in her own words, that she lived through times where she was treated "worse than a dog." A couple from the United States adopted her when she was 9, but she was on the streets by the time she was 16.  When she got pregnant at 19, she called the baby "her light." She got clean and sober and never prostituted or did drugs again. She and her sweet daughter share the same birthday. They are exactly 20 years apart.

When I left the hospital, Jordan was draped over the bed -- too exhausted to grieve standing up. And now, she is offering all the child's organs to others in need. It is an act of generosity and bravery beyond anything I have seen.  I know she knows about loss and pain. I know she knows about how love heals. It makes me weep to imagine her lifting her head off the bed and saying, "Yes, you can take my precious child's heart."  Not tear up, weep. It makes me want to be grateful for everything and love everyone with gentleness. It makes me want to take a wide turn around theology and stay close to the ground. I want to get back up, but first I want to weep a bit longer at the enormous task we have been given: to love one another. All our prayers are with Jordan and Gwen and their families.

Keesha, you are a light.

Peace and love, 
Thistle Farmer

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Road to Nazareth

Her opening did not go well. She tried to say something funny, but people couldn’t hear her. “Speak up,” a small, shawled nun called from the back of the long, elegant drawing room. Its floor-length windows and antique furniture spoke of another era, a gentler time.

“Let her be!” This from another gray, thinly haired nun toward the front of the seated audience.

I was sitting to the side of the Thistle Farms display, able to see both nuns, plus the other attendees gathered in that oversized parlor. And I could see Chelle, bits of sweat already condensing on her forehead. I began internally chanting  whatever happens is fine - whatever happens is fine to comfort myself

Holding notes in one hand and a microphone in the other, Chelle shook slightly as she began again.

Chelle and I had driven up to Kentucky the day before, chatting about our children, life at Thistle Farms, the possibility of her taking a class at Nashville State Community College. Talk was easy and comforting for our friendship dated back at least a decade.

As I drove north on I-65 with Chelle in the passenger seat, a memory from those early days surfaced in my mind -- there is Chelle sitting uncomfortably on the floor in the old St. Augustine’s, encircled by four small wheels, six pieces of black plastic, two silver bars, and lots and lots of nuts and bolts. Chelle glances at me, “Carolyn, do you knew how to put this thing together?”

I am also sitting on the floor, filling out a home party form. “Do you have the directions?”

“Black people don’t use directions!”

I laugh, “Well, neither do white people until we get to this point.”

Together we constructed that cheap, wheeled device that allowed Chelle to carry Thistle Farms candles to vendors around Nashville. She was good at sales, one on one. What she was not as good at was talking at home parties. She did not like telling her story. It didn’t include childhood abuse, terrible poverty; she started using because it was fun. And she was high functioning -  graduating from high school, opening a beauty salon - until crack got her.

Beaten, raped, addicted; she landed at Magdalene, then at Thistle Farms where we worked together as the cottage industry grew into a social enterprise, moving us from St. Augustine’s to St. George’s to Charlotte Pike. During that decade of growth, I was also traveling to and from Kentucky as an associate of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.

It was through me that the nuns first heard of the two year program for women who were criminally convicted of prostitution and had a history of substance abuse. Since Magdalene’s ministry dovetailed with the sisters’ mission, the nuns began donating money to nurture Magdalene and Thistle Farms. Now the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth were to celebrate their 200th anniversary. They invited various non-profits that had received grants from them to come to their campus for a Ministries Fair.

I was the obvious choice to go - and Chelle came with me to sell products and give a brief talk. I minimized the talk - “You won’t have to speak for long; it will be to a bunch of nuns. No problem. And I will help you as we drive up to Nazareth together.”

Well, we hadn’t done that; nor had we prepared on Saturday as a steady stream of nuns, presenters and people from the surrounding area wended their way through the various booths of the Ministries Fair. Between sales, Chelle had made a few notes on scraps of paper. Shortly before her talk was scheduled, as she finalized yet another sale, she looked over at me. “I’m just going to read these notes.”

“Whatever works for you.” I was wishing I had been more diligent about helping her prepare. Now it was too late and her nervousness was palpable as more and more people flowed into the room. With the ease of well-oiled practice, a bevy of nuns silently funneled folding chairs into the space as the audience continued to swell.

Turning to face me, Chelle’s eye’s were wide. “I can’t talk loud enough for all of them to hear me."

“I’ll see if I can get you a mike.”

A nun with the mike gave a brief introduction, then handed the mike to Chelle. With notes in one hand and the mike in the other, she stepped forward to speak.  Whatever happens is fine, whatever happens is fine, I intoned while gripping the arms of the chair.

And then it happened. Chelle put her scraps of notes down on the display table, took hold of the mike with both hands and brought it in toward her mouth so that it could actually fulfill its function. She began to tell her story - caring for younger siblings while her mother worked, doing well at her salon, crashing on crack, coming to Magdalene, getting back on track, doing well, crashing again, coming back to sweep floors at Thistle Farms, working her way back up to office manager. Brilliantly she sprinkled in facts about Magdalene and Thistle Farm - but it was her story that carried us all along, taking us into her life, letting us see her soul.

When she finished, there was silence - but only for a moment. Then the nuns and the non-nuns were on their feet - some with the aid of their walkers. All around that grand old drawing room, people were clapping and clapping as a steady ovation gave witness to the power of love.

By Carolyn Goddard, Thistle Farmer and volunteer

Thursday, May 24, 2012

You Are Going To Be So Proud

Nine women have successfully completed 
the two-year program
and we are honored to celebrate 
this great achievement with them.

Join us on Friday, May 25 
at 11:00am 
as we present the 2012 Graduates
of the Magdalene program.
Our gratitude to our hosts for this event,
The Women of St. Bartholomew's
Ceremony located at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal

Sunday, May 20, 2012

100 Cars For Good

Thistle Farms was selected as a finalists in Toyota's 100 Cars for Good Program. Over 5,000 charities applied, and we were chosen to be one of 500 organizations vying for a car. Monday, May 21, is the day we are teamed with 4 other non-profits. The one with the most votes at the end of the day wins a car. We need your help to win!

Here is why we need a car....

At Thistle Farms women who were in jail or lived on the streets now represent the organization at home parties, business meetings and church events. Employees drive to events, sell products, and take responsibility for inventory and money. The women educate the community about prostitution and addiction and the truth that healing is possible for all of us. Employees on the Retail Sales team also drive to stores to hold demos and deliver products. Events and Retail Sales visits happen throughout the southeast and represent 70% of Thistle Farms’ yearly income. As Thistle Farms has no vehicles, we must rely on employees’ cars. Many women have their licenses but are unable to purchase a car; others have a vehicle, but it is unreliable. Thistle Farms is unable to accept many opportunities as we can’t provide safe transportation for employees. A Toyota SUV will help us attend more events, visit more stores, and sell more products -- allowing us to offer jobs and help more women heal.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

United We Learn

Mothers everywhere share a low-level form of panic this time of year:

The end of the school year!
An overwhelming whirlwind of end-of-school parties!
Field Days!
Athletic banquets!
Awards ceremonies!
Children anxious about exams!

It also brings the need to find unique and meaningful teacher and graduation gifts.  

Who has time for that?
Is summer here yet?

Consider this easy solution:


The United We Learn gift set.  Supporting Thistle Farms and ABAN, two social enterprises providing education and job skills to women changing their lives.

Celebrate the gift of education with the women of Thistle Farms and ABAN, and support two social enterprises providing education and job skills to women escaping lives of violence, trafficking, prostitution and addiction.

The bag is made by the women of ABAN in Ghana, from recycled plastic waste from the streets where these young mothers used to live.  It’s perfect as a pencil pouch, toiletry bag or wallet. Tucked inside is a notepad made of hand crafted thistle paper, a mini-pen with the reminder that LOVE HEALS, and a Thistle Farms’ lip balm. Meaningful, functional, and affordable at only $12.00.

These two smart mothers are checking teacher’s gifts off their lists.    

With gratitude to the teachers and mentors on the journey, and in honor of all students at the crossroads.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

5 Budget-Friendly Graduation Gifts

Still looking for the perfect graduation gift? 
We can solve your dilemma.


Check out 5 of Thistle Farms' fantastic graduation gifts, friendly for all budgets.  Remember, with every purchase, you directly support women surviving lives of violence, prostitution and addiction.

1.  Lip Smoothie:  $4
Look fabulous while changing the world. This handmade shimmery lip balm contains all natural ingredients such as pomegranate oil and shea butter to nourish lips while they shine.

2.  Find Your Way Home:  $11
Written by members of the Magdalene and Thistle Farms community. Features meditations on the power of healing love based on the group’s 25 spiritual principles.

A beautiful Thistle paper Journal to record memories on the next stage of the journey.  Small enough to fit in a handbag and handmade with love in our Paper Room.

A must-have for going out on the town in style!  Includes a fashionable clutch from Lwala in Kenya, two handmade bracelets from ABAN in Ghana, Ikirezi Geranium Fields Scented Oil from Rwanda, and a Thistle Farms Pomegranate Lip Smoothie. With this kit, you support 4 women’s social enterprises around the world.

5.  Sandal Survival Kit:  $25
Perfect for summer, our Sandal Survival Kit comes with our signature Body Polish and Body Butter to keep your toes beautiful and feet smooth. Also included are a purple nail polish and a Thistle Farms nail file to “Paint Your Nails Purple” for women’s freedom.

Share the power of love with friends and family as they graduate and take the next steps in their lives. Spread the truth that love heals with gifts from Thistle Farms.  

Sunday, May 6, 2012


My mom is why I’m here.

That statement is a pretty loaded one for me, one soaked with tears, lit with beaming smiles, and held together by a hug. My mom is why I’m an intern here at Thistle Farms. She’s the one I called when I was in the depths and needed to leave university to find a place to heal. In this community of redemptive love, I’ve found a group of mother figures, guardians to shepherd me back to my sense of self-worth.

In Buddhism, there exist enlightened beings known as Bodhisattvas. Known as “wisdom-beings”, I have come to know Bodhisattvas as undercover angels, people with indelible goodness and patience they share with the world. In my experience these past 6 months, Bodhisattvas have been everywhere. My various guardians and friends at Thistle Farms have been Bodhisattvas each and every day, shedding light on the truth, beauty, and hope in the darkness of this world.

This Mother’s Day, I want to celebrate the Bodhisattvas. The undercover angels that help us be that which we would become. These undercover angels, these “wisdom-beings”, they are moms, sisters, friends, daughters. They are everyday people doing their best to be for the next generation, which their moms, sisters, and grandmothers were for them.

How will you celebrate the mothers in your life? I suggest buying one of Thistle Farms Mother’s Day Kits to share the gift of healing love with your mother, sister, or friend while simultaneously supporting a community of recovery here in Nashville. Every purchase you make directly benefits the mothers, grandmothers, sisters and friends that made the product with love. This May 13th, let’s do our best to proclaim the power of love to change the world with our families, friends, and those we may never meet, but who we love all the same. 

By Maddie, Thistle Farms intern