Monday, November 29, 2010

Thistle Visitors

One of the goals at Thistle Farms is to spread the vision of Magdalene to other communities and states. In this way, we become a voice in the dialogue that promotes women's freedom, while at the same time encouraging other places to start their own communities. Many friends have stopped by this fall for a tour and visit to our new Thistle Farms Building. We have had visitors from Dayton, Dallas, Atlanta, Charleston, Raleigh, Florida, Scotland, Hendersonville, and Pennsylvania. One friend was an old classmate of mine and she is taking the message that love heals back to her home church. She claims now to be a Thistle Farmer and spent part of her weekend after her visit collecting thistles. Thank you, Kate.

With gratitude,
Becca Stevens

Pictured: Rev. Kate Kelderman from Gettysburg, PA and Rev. Becca Stevens from Nashville, TN.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Holiday Gifts

According to the Nashville Scene, this year, stop wasting your time and give gifts that matter. We couldn't agree more, especially since we have a some perfect holiday gifts for everyone on your list!

Check out these holiday-specific gifts and great deals, all handmade by the women of Thistle Farms:

Take care of all your skin and body needs for the winter months ahead in one beautifully-packaged kit! Each is filled with a bath tea, body polish, body balm and lip balm. The cotton drawstring bags are hand-made by women from the Lwala Community Alliance in Kenya.

Holiday Candle
Made with soy-bean based ecowax and the finest ingredients of the earth. Totally vegan. Completely holiday.

Fill your home with love and spray it with this fine mist. A fabulous alternative to heavy, chemical sprays. Our all-natural spray will refresh and revive your rooms with scents of the season. Over 750 sprays in one bottle!

Holiday Sachet
A holiday smell for the entire home! Enjoy these seasonal aromas while they last.

Our all-natural hand soap uses sunflower seed and coconut oils to gently and effectively clear away dirt. Our lotion also uses olive and grapeseed oils, plus honey and pure lavender essential oil to nourish and soften dry skin. For the holidays, save $5 by buying them together as a perfect pair.

Don't forget to check out our entire product line at our Online Store!

PLUS - if your company is thinking of buying gifts for its employees and/or vendors, know that Thistle Farms offers corporate discounts for volume orders over $500. Show your colleagues your support for local business and belief in the real meaning of the season. Contact for more information.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

God Is Good

We sing because we're happy.
We sing because the fire is hot in our bellies.
We sing because the wind is cool on our faces.
We sing because God is wonderful.

We sing because God is faith.
We sing because faith is hope.
We sing because it frees me.
We sing because freedom is a gift I love.

We sing because it makes the world go round.
We sing because I am a child of correction.
We sing because I am teachable.

We sing because God likes my voice.
We sing because God blessed us.

~ by the women of Magdalene

Happy Thanksgiving from everyone in the Thistle Farms and Magdalene community!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sewanee Alumni of the Year Award

Becca Stevens, mathematics major in the Class of '85, was honored at Sewanee's Homecoming this year with the Distinguished Alumnus Award. She was the youngest recipient of this award and its first female recipient.

Becca had the following remarks on receiving the award:
Thank you so much to the alumni association for this honor. I am humbled by it. Both of my parents are buried on this mountain and to accept this award in such close proximity to them feels very special to me. The foundation for the work I have done for the past couple decades was laid long before I came to the mountain. It was the early death of my father and other childhood experiences that set the stage for having a desire to serve women with criminal backgrounds in addiction and prostitution, who on average were first abused between the ages of 7 and 11, most of whom knew the backside of justice, the underside of bridges and the short side of economics long before they knew the inside of prisons. While that foundation was built, it was here on this mountain that I learned the necessary skills and theology to put those experiences into a context and a ministry. It was here that professors like Dr. Spacerelli not only taught me Spanish but offered books like “the hovering giant” that questioned the balance of power in this part of the world. Math professors like Dr. Croom, Dr. Puckett, and Dr. Alverez not only gave me a structure to solve problems, but taught me that mathematics was a universal language that could be translated into developing language about God. Professors like Dr. Smith, Dr. Potter, and many others gave us the freedom to question religion and the environments we were surrounded by. The administration under Dr. Ayers offered us opportunities to develop our leadership and give us a platform to learn to speak our truth. Since my graduation have been meandering mostly on side roads for the past two and a half decades. During this sojourn I have learned that love is the most powerful force for social change, that we can love the whole world a person at a time, and that the most radical form of love is to love without judgment. The lessons have left me with little energy for the politics of religion, and need buckling grateful that I get to be part of communities that remember that serving one another is not a side issue, but central to the gospel and to living out our faith. I still have so much more to learn and this community reminds me that we are life-long students. I am grateful to so many people, classmates and colleagues and friends and my husband Marcus and our sons Levi and Caney and Moses that keep the communities I serve going. My prayer is that we all keep taking the lessons of this community back into the world and speak our truth in love with conviction always. Thank you so much.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Share Your Birthday With Thistle Farms

When Susan from Nashville was planning her birthday celebration, she remembered hearing about Thistle Farms though her job at HCA.

Susan tells us: "I decided after 44 years of birthdays and trying to come up with something different to do, I thought it would be fun to have a home party for my birthday. People are going to buy gifts or pay for your dinner so why not let them spend their money on a worthy cause? I realize birthdays are suppose to be all about 'me' and I couldn't think of a better way to feel that way than to know I was part of something so special. Through my party, I gave my friends and coworkers a the reason to come and witness the women and see the products."

To book the party, Susan got in contact with our Events Coordinator, Carole "It was extremely easy," Susan said. "I emailed Carole who made me feel so good about doing this from the start and all I had to do was give her a few logistics and off we went. The whole thing was taken care of with just a few emails. Let’s face it -- I am not as much of the technology generation but even I have to admit it is nice not to have to deal with set up through a 1,000 phone calls."

Susan thought her guests all seemed to enjoy the party. One of them was quoted saying: “It was an inspiring and fun event – those ladies are so very strong and have conquered such obstacles in their lives. I only hope if I were ever faced with an obstacle that difficult I would respond with that type of courage and perseverance. Thank you for doing this!!! I loved it.”

Happy birthday Susan! We loved spending your special day with you.

If you are interested in planning a birthday party with Thistle Farms, email Carole at for more information.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

More Visions of Love Stories

We are so grateful to all who attended
the Magdalene Fall Fundraiser:

In one night, we shared stories of hope
and asked our friends -- new and old -- for their help
to keep the doors of Magdalene and Thistle Farms open.
To continue helping women come off the streets and into sanctuary.
To live out a true love story.

Our friends did not let us down!

We've posted photos from the magical night
on our Facebook page or you can also see them on Flickr.
Below is a video of our own, Shelia,
a graduate of the Magdalene program
and the Assistant Resident Manager of the houses.
This is a first hand testimonial of true love story
and the hope that lies within the doors or Magdalene.

with special thanks to Laura Choppin for her vision and beautiful video and production skills.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Love Stories

Love Stories
from the Magdalene Fall Fundraiser: Love Stories of Hope, Surrender and Courage.

When "us" and "them", however we define those words, cease to exist, a love story ensues. This is a love story. Every single person in this room (and reading this right now) is a beloved character in this story. It is our story of becoming us. It is the story of learning to speak our truth in love and telling the story through our actions. Thank you for helping write this story.

Love stories teach us how rich life can be. Two years ago, we realized we had become thistle farmers and that the whole world is our farm and that we could harvest thistle anywhere we traveled. We learned we could write our stories on our own ground up thistles we found on roadsides, abandoned mountain tops, and in flood-devastated lands. A group of thistle farmers traveled to Africa that same year and found thistles on the edge of a memorial erected to commemorate 258,000 people killed during the genocide in Rwanda. There are enough thistles in this world to cover all the love stories we could write and they are a perfect offering for this evening.

By the summer of 2009, Thistle Farms was making healing oils with geranium oil we learned about from Rwanda and wrapping them in our thistle paper. We took these beautiful oils and paper around the country and began offering them as part of our line of thistle farms products. During this same time we also began a prison tour, funded by the Cal Turner Foundation, to take our message of hope and healing into the women’s prisons. Into each prison we brought the book, “Find Your Way Home,” written by Magdalene and inscribed with a message of hope.

The last prison we visited a couple months ago was outside of Houston, Texas. It had no air-conditioning and the smell of women who had worked all day in the turnip fields permeated the prison. We took 300 books for the prison women. It took so long to inscribe the books that we missed the deadline for shipping them and had to check them in with the luggage. Since I had to check the bag and pay the fee, I brought along some geranium oils that I couldn’t carry on the plane.The next day we unloaded the books into bags, carried them through the prison security and passed them out to 300 prisoners. A woman leaned over to me after she opened the book and said, "This book smells so beautiful. You would be surprised, but small things make such a big difference.”

Love stories surprise us. It was miraculous to me that a drop of geranium made its way from a group of women in Rwanda who embody hope as they go out to fields to grow new crops even after they have known such devastation. Then that drop of oil made its way to Nashville where another group of women who have survived lives of abuse, addiction and prostitution embody hope and go to work each day to make healing products that say on every label, Love Heals. Finally, that drop of oil made its way into the pages of a book written about hope, passed through prison walls and found its way to a woman who was open to breathing it in its hope and beauty. In the scale of love a drop in the bucket is plenty.

There are many love stories this year to share---26 women have entered the program since last year to come and live free in one of the six residential houses. 18 have successfully graduated from the Intensive outpatient program, 15 have completed their computer courses, 35 women are currently employed at Thistle Farms where we still need to triple our sales to make sure women can work living hours. 11 women graduated the two year residential program in June. 50 women were served through outreach efforts.

But our love stories are not a fairy tale where we get to live happily ever after. There are still a hundred women on the waiting list. Friends were sentenced to prison terms that will cost years of lives and millions of dollars. Most of those women saw the backside of injustice long before they saw the inside of a jail. Three women we know where murdered on the streets, including a graduate of Magdalene named Rosalyn. She was a beautiful sister who in an abusive relationship, lost her job, her home, and succumbed to addiction before her tragic death. She, too, is part of our love story and grieving her is not a burden, but a luxury as we remember every person in the world is a beloved child of God and in a love story, grief won’t break us, but instead gives us renewed strength and the impetus to start writing a new chapter of the story of love in all our lives. Despite all the mess ups I have made this year and all the mess ups people in our community have made---there is still love and there is still hope for all of us.

This is a year where our love story, like all love stories will unfold, not in words, but in deeds. It will unfold not in people praising us, but joining in the effort to help change a culture that still buys and sells women, that holds the secrets of abuse as sacred and turns a blind eye to the needs of sisters on the streets. Our goal tonight to keep the houses open and the business running is to raise $225,000; it is so doable.

Beyond that we need everyone to buy and use our products to spread the news. Don’t have anything else in your bathrooms at home or at your business but Thistle Farms products. Light a candle and say a prayer for this work. This year we need to renovate one of our homes, increase our retail accounts to over $10,000 a month, solidify our relationship to Whole Foods, visit another 100 congregations here and around the country, visit more prisons, and teach another fifty groups who will visit Magdalene from other cities how to adapt this model.

Our goals are no loftier than you would expect in a love story. Love stories are truth. And truth can be more harrowing than fiction. It will be the unbelievable story and we are the heroes.