As a part of a community that constantly shows their love, hope, support and compassion on a daily basis, I am used to hearing of amazing acts of kindness and unbelievable stories of redemption. It is not unusual for people to call, email, or show up at my job to volunteer their time, donate something, share their story or simply be a part of our morning meditation. The volunteers and donors, since the beginnings of Magdalene, have shared the same fire and dedication as the women of the program; turning a small program into what is now a national movement. I have always been so incredibly grateful to those that were involved in creating, implementing, sustaining, and sharing a program that saved my life.
I am so passionate about what we are doing, about what I am a part of, that it is very hard for me not to cry, a lot, all the time. As the Events Coordinator, I handle numerous emails and field phone calls 24/7. And typically have the tell-tale signs of being a "crier" with my mascara starting to run down my face by the end of the phone call. Normally, the first 10 minutes of the call (or first few paragraphs of an email) consist of people explaining how much they love us, how being involved with Thistle Farms has "changed their life," why they want to donate money or asking how they can help. But wait a minute -- aren't I the one who is supposed to be saying "Thank You?" I'm confused, because, it was through their support, their donations, their volunteer time, their love that this program has flourished. However, it often becomes a "Battle of Gratitude," sounding something like: "Thank You." "No, Thank You." "No, no, Thank YOU." You get the idea....
So I don't know why I was surprised when I found myself in the same conversation, repeating how thankful we were, with those pesky tears threatening to ruin my perfectly applied makeup for the evening, as I was asked to help host an event. (But I was prepared! I now use WATERPROOF mascara on a daily basis and could probably write it off on my taxes as a necessary tool as an Event Coordinator for a non-profit.). I was having a "gratitude battle" with some chicks I LOVE: Carly & Amanda of Aberdeen Green.
These amazingly talented, incredibly sweet and highly motivated women took it upon themselves to plan, promote, organize a benefit for Magdalene & Thistle Farms -- Music City: Women 4 Women -- a musical benefit to raise money for us! They got the venue, food, sound and artists donated or paid for -- as a means of holding a fundraiser for us.
The whole night was amazing. Jennifer, Rita, Penny, Dorris and I attended, and were completely blown away by the love and compassion displayed by everyone involved. The highlight of the night for me was being witness to another graduate, Dorris Walker, performing her original song "Magdalene", for the first time. Singing a song that she wrote, on a Nashville stage, accompanied by an incredibly talented artist, for the first time, was a huge event that I know she will never forget. And Dorris rocked it!
The talent in that room last week rivaled that of any 10 Nashville venues that night! Every single person and group that played, was simply amazing. At the end of the evening, nearly $2,000 was raised! That money goes directly into the program to help get some of the 100+ women on our waiting list off the street. Women who have been victims of sex-trafficking, domestic violence, prostitution, sexual abuse and drug addiction come to Magdalene seeking a solution to a life that has gotten stuck in a cycle of misery, pain and hopelessness. Through the belief that love is the most powerful force for change in the world, our community is changing that cycle. By providing a 2 year, residential program, at no cost to the women, Magdalene provides a place for healing, compassion, and an unconditional love that, seven years later, overwhelms me every day.
As a graduate, I feel I want to be more focused on loving, instead of being loved. But no matter how much I love, how grateful I am, how passionate I am or how excited I get, I always run across volunteers and supporters that are even more motivated and dedicated that I am.
It is only through the dedicated supporters and volunteers that this program is even possible. If you want to find out more about getting involved with Thistle Farms & Magdalene, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and visit us on Wednesday mornings at 51st & Charlotte in Nashville.
As I travel on this amazing journey that God has strategically sent me on, I cannot help but smile when I think of how He places people in my life. Carly & Amanda sing about a valley: The Shenandoah Valley. I grew up just a stone's throw away, in another valley: The New River Valley. Working with these two reminds me of home, of the mountains and the cool air. I can see the Blue Ridge Mountains & the lake I live on when they sing. And that's about the best thing in the world. I've tried my whole life to run from those mountains and that lake, mostly because of the things that happened during my drug use and addiction. Thank you, Amanda & Carly, for giving me back a beautiful picture of my home.
In Love & Gratitude,