and highly loved,
meet another fabulous volunteer -
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.