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Views from the Farm

Views from the Farm: First Time Down the Thistle Road

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This was written by Brooke Byers, my new Executive Assistant and the National Travel Coordinator. Her generous spirit and talent are such a gift.

---Becca

...

There was a day in the not so distant past (I can still see it in the rear view mirro, lthough it's fading) that fear would've kept me from this work. I grew-up as a sheltered preacher's kid in the Deep South. Diversity wasn't a word I knew or really understood. I didn't have a clue about my privilege in the world until a veil slowly started to lift while living in the great Pacific Northwest a few years back. Self-awareness can be life-changing.

Fast forward to mid-April when I found myself boarding a plane headed to Kansas City. I had the opportunity to travel with Becca and two Thistle Farms survivor leader (Regina & Tiffany) to Kansas and Fort Smith, Arkansas. Becca travels globally spreading the message that love is the most powerful force for change in the world, and she typically travels with to 2-3 of the Thistle Farms women and a road assistant. I was anxious to get to know Regina, so I plopped down in the seat next to her. She is Director of our Thistle Farms Residential program, Magdalene. For 20 years she has extended her heart and hand to women still on the streets so they can find their way home. She is one of the most courageous women I've ever met. We talked about what it's like to find our own freedom and we shared stories about our kids. It was such an honor to hear some of her story. We laughed, cried and had fun cutting up on the plane.

As the road assistant, I had a few tasks for the weekend: keep us on time, drive the oh-so-hot mini-van and sell products on a POS system I'd never used. No big deal, right? Usually pressure like this would give me a migraine and put me under, but I had a great sense of pride and was overwhelmed by gratitude. This is my life-work now (I'm still pinching myself!). Tiffany is such a rock star and patiently helped me with the POS. She knows so much about our products and is great with customers. I really enjoyed getting to know her. She is a strong, courageous woman and has overcome so much. I truly admire her great strength and consider her my sister for life!

The weekend was full of messages about the "good news of healing", "daily practices and rituals to keep the spirit moving," and contemplative practices. It was awesome to see Becca in action. I’m such a geek and even took notes while Becca spoke. I was hanging on every word! These beautiful quotes by Dr. Rev. Becca Stevens particularly impacted my heart and are still resonating with me.

“We need to be reminded about the good news of healing.”

“Love is the end of the story.”

“How do I speak my truth in love?”

“Good news is not oppressive.”

“We need to have space and a moment to dream about what healing looks like in our own lives."

We enjoyed a feast of some of the finest BBQ in KC with Becca's friends, met some amazing folks in Mission and Fort Smith, devoured some of the best guacamole at an Ecuadorian restaurant in Fort Smith, sold over $10k of Thistle Farms products and traveled through 6 different states in 4 days. We had a fairly quiet and (thankfully) uneventful 4.5 hour drive to Ft. Smith, but I’ll never forget how the lyrics hit me when Becca ooked up her phone to the sound system in the van and playe the song "Make it Love." I remember feeling a great sense of joy and was reminded that I’m not alone by the line “let’s just make it love and take each other’s hands.” I was in a van with three amazing women who make it love EVERY DAY! Check it out here!

It's easy for me to sit behind a computer, type up the travel itineraries and coordinate all of the logistics from afar but to be on "ground zero" with the heroes from Thistle Farms is truly a great gift.

blog image credit: pixabay.com

Views from the Farm: Speaking Trip to Montgomery, Alabama

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This is a guest post by one of the amazing assistants, Jordan, who is reflecting on his first time being out on the road with the Thistle Farms travel crew. He is way too kind---but his tender words are a gift to those still searching for their place in the circle. Peace, Becca,

---

I must say that now having a trip under my belt I feel ever so slightly more official in my Thistle Farmer status...

During the first week of May 2016, I had the great opportunity to head down to Montgomery, Alabama--my first time in that city as well--with Susan, Jennifer and Rita. We met Becca, who was coming from another engagement, down there. Along the way, we made the obligatory fast food stop, listened to NPR, reflected on our journeys thus far, and enjoyed the blessing of extending love's great reach to even more hearts and minds. Without question, some of the most important work that a Thistle Farmer can do is speak her truth, and the fact that so many events and organizations make space for us to do that is testament to why we all fell in love with love from the first time we lit a Thistle Farms candle, heard Becca speak, or worked in service to the amazing women who are changing the course of their destiny with each success they have in recovery.

Of course, for me, one of the highlights of the whole experience was hearing Becca give a keynote. Speaking about the power of "Acting Globally, Helping Locally," the Boss did what she does well: combined humor, compassion, insight, conviction, and hope into a journey that her audience thoroughly enjoyed taking with her as they learned about why the movement to end human trafficking locally must be global. While there are many things that stood out for me in hearing these truths once more, I was personally convicted by hearing Becca talk about the fact that she's never taken a salary for her work with Thistle Farms:

"I offer this work up as a free gift, for this community and in gratitude for all the mercy that people have shown me in my life."

That wasn't my first time encountering such a sweet truth that undergirds the foundation of all that we do at Thistle Farms--this lavishness of love--but it was the first time that I was able to make such a personal connection to the message behind it. There has yet to be a day when I haven't been blessed in some way by being in service to this community. Even looking back on my internship back in 2011, something about Becca's work called to me then, and such a calling ultimately brought me back to that stretch of earth on Charlotte Avenue in Nashville, TN where the ground is bursting forth with the unfolding promise of love as the most powerful force for social change.

As such, I feel the gift that Becca has extended to me in taking me under her mentorship, and I feel the path unfolding before all of us as we strive to create a national housing-first network in all 50 states over the next few years. Accordingly, I conclude this entry with sincere thanks, not only for the opportunity to have traveled, but for being welcomed back into this circle when I needed it more than I ever realized.

With love, Jordan

Original image credit: pixabay.com

Views from the Farm: A Photoshoot with Becca at Radnor Lake

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as part of a new series i want to feature on here, this is the first entry in a set of reflections from some thistle farmers that work, travel and love the world with me. i'm so grateful for all of the people that help make this work possible, and i'm glad to share part of their story here with you, too. this was written by one of my assistants, jordan.

love, becca ---

"What we are feeling and experiencing is not a sense of being lost but the wonder of discovering something new..."

The gift of being a Thistle Farmer to me has always been that once we start down the path we never know where it will take us on any given day. A few weeks ago, such an expected turn came my way when The Boss, otherwise known as The Reverend Becca Stevens, asked me if I wanted to go to Radnor Lake with her for a photoshoot we’d arranged as part of some upcoming projects Thistle Farms is about to roll out for our Beloved Community. Becca was literally heading out the door, and while my fresh Hummus Helping from the Cafe was just calling to me, the promise of new Spring air and the chance to experience flowers blooming with one of their biggest fans was too great an opportunity to turn down.

On the drive over, The Boss and I discussed a little of everything. (If you ever get the chance to chat with her about life at large, I highly recommend that you take it.) Of particular note to me was the way that she interwove all the details of not only her life and work as a Thistle Farmer, but also as a priest who still feels called to light incense while praying, visit the ailing, and spread the kindness of her vocation whenever she can.

While I realize that it’s not good to make heroes out of people, I can say in clear conscience that Becca has become a possibility model for me in terms of how she’s shown me that it’s possible to love the world and love how you do it at the same time. That’s been a huge gift to me as an emerging professional.

After we arrived and greeted the rest of our party, Peggy and Kren, we took a luxurious walk around the lake, scouting the perfect location for Becca to do something she does very well: be photogenic. During our wandering, The Boss pointed out flowers left and right, detailing their name, medicinal properties, and the way they grow out of the ground. If there were any question about the depth of love she has for the earth from which we harvest our thistles, spending time with her outside will clear that up in heartbeat. Several steps and funny stories later, a location was chosen.

Becca removed her signature Ugg boots, and then sat amongst the earth that was blooming before us. I had the privilege of holding the reflector as Peggy worked her magic. You’ll see the full fruits of her labor shortly, but I can assure you that the combination of her artistic eye, the sunlight, Radnor, and Becca made for some gorgeous results.

All too soon, we had to pack up and head back to the cars. But the sweet experiences of that day still remain vivid in my mind. It’s not too many folks my age who can say that they’ve had the vast variety of professional development experiences my time with Thistle Farms continues to offer me. Just when I think that we’re settled into a week of the good work of proving to the world that is the most powerful force for social change, something new will crop up and allow me to experience our mission in ways I had not yet imagined.

This has made for a very grateful Thistle Farmer who thanks you for spending some time reading about his great day with his great Boss.

Love heals, Jordan

blog image credit: pixabay.com