Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tall As A Thistle

A few days ago, I saw the blossom of a huge thistle growing in a natural cemetery I visited in Gainesville, Florida called Prairie Creek. Thistles have long been our symbol at Thistle Farms of the weed that grows where the women walk and sleep, how each one has a beautiful purple center and reminds us that everything on God's green earth is beloved. I wanted to show our friends the 10' tall thistle plants nearby that still haven't bloomed. I carry the community of Thistle Farms with me on the road, laughing about stories I remember, fretting over money, missing being a part of our meditation circle and worrying about the most vulnerable among the women we serve who are still suffering.

When I saw these thistles I wanted to gather the whole community, hold hands and sing our hearts out. I wanted us to sing because in the middle of even an old cemetery there is life and it is powerful and stunning. These thistles have tap roots that must reach down another 10'. That means this plant, not yet fully grown is over 20' high. It is nurtured by the earth around it and by it's fore-bearers that offered  their seeds from wind and rain to take root.

This is how I see the community of Thistle Farms right now: 20' high and growing taller from the trials of opening new businesses, launching a conference and even burying friends and family this year. Our community was planted on rich soil and we have nothing to fear. Our community is standing 20' tall and it is a sign of love's power and grace. I am holding all the women who still are on the streets and suffering in troubled fields from sexual violence, mental health, trauma, loneliness, and trafficking in my thoughts at the foot of this giant thistle. The story and perseverance are part of what makes our thistle stand tall in the troubled fields of this world. With more gratitude and love than I have words for, I am a thistle farmer.

Peace and love, 
Becca Stevens---
Thistle Farmer

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Sewing Studio

Our newest endeavor, The Sewing Studio, opened this month with an introduction to sewing machines given by Vivian Lavinskas, from Singer, Viking, Pfaff (SVP) who arranged the donation of 12 new sewing machines to Thistle Farms.  

We had enormous excitement when we carried the new machines into our wonderful new space and opened the boxes for the first time. The machines fit neatly into the sewing tables that were waiting for them, and we are all plugged in and ready for instruction. 

Joan -- a happy Thistle Farmer and seamstress!

Instruction will continue under the able guidance of wonderful generous hearted Thistle Farmer volunteers, Gayle Happell and Babs Knieriem, and several members of the Cumberland Valley Quilt Guild and other skilled volunteers. The women who will be training and working in the Sewing Studio are Joan, Betty and Tonya. Penny and Anna will also go through the training and everyone will be working in both the Paper and Sewing Studios, as needed.  

Studio employees, Betty, Terri and Joan are joined by generous hearted Quilter Mentors: Gayle, Babs and Shirley.

Our initial products will be directed toward the cafe market.  We will be using brilliant exciting batik cotton fabrics to create coasters, tea cozies, placemats, napkins and table runners.  According to Thistle Stop Cafe Coordinator, Courtney, the items will be used as decor for special events at the cafe, as well as being available for purchase.

These are prototypes of the tea cozies the Sewing Studio will be making for use and for sale in the cafe. They keep the tea hot longer, protects the table top, and adds color and warmth to the tea setting. Colors and fabric designs will vary. All 100% cotton.

In addition, beginning in June, the Studio will be working on a large quilt to be hung as a backdrop at this year's annual fundraiser. To cut our overhead, we are hoping to receive donations of 100% cotton batik fabrics and thread. 

Rita and Tonya learning how to use the automatic needle threader. 

Here are some reflections from the Thistle Farms Sewing Studio employees:

I love my experience in sewing because it's something new for me. I made a pillow, then I gave it to someone else who watched us make them. We had wonderful teachers here tutoring us, as well.  I love making people feel as good as I do.  
- Penny

Mentor Babs with Nealya, who donated over 20 Yards of beautiful batiks.

I love my experience in the sewing room, I love new creations, and, thanks to my good attention, I can learn to sew and sew.  
- Betty

SVP Vivian Lavinskas, on right, explaining features of machines to Betty and Mentors, Jeannie and Joan. 

I've heard it said that if you do what you love, you never have to work again.  I love to sew and that's what I do for a living. My creativity has been sparked by the wonderful mentors and all of the new machines and devices. I get excited when I get to come to work.
- Joan

Joan, Anna & Betty 

Endless gratitude to our incredible team of mentors who swept in on Wednesday with enthusiasm, skill, patience, and abundant love to offer instruction in careful craftsmanship and to share beautiful fabrics, bowls of strawberries and shouts of hearty laughter.  The Sewing Studio has had a great launch.
- Anna

Story and Photos by Anna Saterstrom 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

From Alleyways to Skyways

Thistle Farms was recently the recipient of the Neighborhood Builders® award from Bank of America. The award recognizes nonprofits that have made a significant impact in the community in the areas of housing, jobs and hunger relief. The program pairs leadership training for executive directors and emerging leaders with a $200,000 two-year unrestricted grant. Bank of America started this award in 2004, and since that time, has awarded more than $165 million, recognized over 730 nonprofits, and trained nearly 1,500 nonprofit leaders. We are not only so grateful for the funding that this remarkable grant provides, but also for the leadership training it is providing women in this program.

Here is a first-hand account of Shana's recent trip to a Bank of America Conference for Emerging Leaders:

WOW, Bank of America gave us a Neighborhood Builders grant and we needed a representative to go to Arizona for a conference. As I'm a Sales Rep for Thistle Farms, and Katrina, our National Sales Director couldn't attend, I was asked to go. My response was....when do I leave!  

I was given instructions throughout the months leading up to the trip: set up a Linked In account, register for a Leadership Practices Inventory Assessment (a survey your co-workers do about you), call AAA and make reservations. ALL DONE!  
This would be my first trip by myself. Very exciting -- although the closer the date came, the more anxious I became. Because it was Bank of America, I pictured myself sitting in the middle of rows of bankers in suits. And what is 'business casual' anyway?  
After stuffing the biggest suitcase I could find with too many clothes, I was off. Although I took my first flight ever only last year, I now consider myself to be a pro at airports! 

Upon arrival in Arizona, I met one of my first not-a-banker-at-all colleagues. She was from Arizona and continued to tell me about her organization’s mission and the grant Bank of America gave them. 
There would be 60 individuals from different organizations there that week who all had received grants from Bank of America. We all spent the week in training on how to become a better leader. I met the most incredible people and learned all about their organizations. What an amazing opportunity! 

From alleyways to skyways, I am a true example of how love heals. 

By Shana Godwin
Thistle Farms Sales Rep

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Letting Go With Grace

This blog post is part 5 of a 5-part series on Snake Oil: The Art of Healing and Truth Telling by Becca Stevens. For parts 1-4, click HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.


Letting go with grace is a lot like being a tight ropewalker. There is tension in it, there is uncertainty, and there is the illusion that nothing will be under you should you fail. But the beauty in watching a tight ropewalker perform is that at the end of the day, through the tricks and leaps and almost-disasters that occur, the ultimate message of such an act is to invite people to hear stories, to invite people into a sacred space who are searching to be moved.

Being able to let go of control means that we are to loosen our grip on our need for certainty and to accept grace that is extended to us.

“Sometimes letting go is hard, not because we will lose something or someone we love, but because the process of releasing requires us to contemplate our own shortcomings and fears.”

The healing oil "Contemplation," made with jasmine, grapefruit, frankincense and myrrh in olive oil, invites us to restore our minds and bodies for reflection. A descendant of the oils that Mary carried to the tomb of Jesus, Contemplation reminds us to accept the things that we cannot change, and to receive love as it comes to us.

In the end, being a snake oil salesman means the ultimate invitation to come and know, and to seek truth. They invite us like the eternal sky to keep searching for truth and meaning. 

You can order "Contemplation" or our entire line of healing oils on our online store. For more information on the book, Snake Oil, visit the Jericho Books website or purchase online at:
Parnassus Books
Barnes And Noble
or find at an Independent Bookseller near you

Story by Abby Hardaway
Photos by Peggy Napier & Carolyn Snell