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I’m Louise. Blogger. Wife. Designer of TruLu Couture Veils + Accessories.  If you’d like to know more, check out my bio.

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How Love Can Heal 

*Whatever you do, make sure you get down to the bottom of this post!*

OK, so a couple of years ago The Candyman and I were invited to a backyard wedding in East Nashville. This East side wedding was lovely, as all weddings are. The bride wore a lacey white top and a light colored long suede skirt and cowboy boots. The invites were paperless, as was the RSVP. A friend officiated. The couple requested that no gifts be brought. However, since people are insistent (and they are), they allowed guests to bring a bottle of their favorite wine for the reception (brilliant idea) or they could donate to Thistle Farms.

Uh. Wait a second. Donate WHERE? I looked it up online and their website was crap and I didn’t understand it and so I opted to bring the wine.

Fast forward a year or so. The Candyman and I were engaged and one weekend I popped into The Frothy Monkey for a much needed latte and the line was just killer long. As I was waiting to order I was browsing some of the shop’s items for purchase and l noticed some Thistle Farms product. I made the connection and did a little reading about the place. I was floored. And I knew RIGHT THEN that The Candyman and I needed to include Thistle Farms as part of our registry.

So that’s what this introduction leads us to: ALTERNATIVE REGISTRIES and specifically, Thistle Farms.

Like I mentioned a few weeks ago, I went on a field trip. I buddied up with Tabitha and Ashley from Ashley’s Bride Guide as well as Jonathon and Sharon from Jonathon Campbell Photography.

The ladies of Thistle Farms, Ashley's Bride Guide and The Thirty-Something Bride!

I had met Carolyn Snell, one of Thistle Farm’s volunteers at the ABG Sex and the City party. We talked excitedly about how I had come to know them and I just KNEW I had to blog about this and tell everyone I possible could about this amazing place. So what is it? Here we go:

The Story of Magdalene and Thistle Farms

Magdalene is a two-year residential community founded in Nashville Tennessee in 1997 for women with a history of prostitution and drug addiction. Magdalene was founded not just to help a sub-culture of women, but to help change the culture itself. We stand in solidarity with women who are recovering from sexual abuse, violence, and life on the streets, and who have paid dearly for a culture that buys and sells women like commodities. 

At no cost, we offer women a safe, disciplined, and compassionate community for two years, paid for by the gifts we receive from individuals and private grants. Magdalene stands as a witness to the truth that in the end, love is more powerful than all the forces that drive women to the streets.

What is Thistle Farms?

Thistle Farms is a non-profit business operated by the women of Magdalene. By hand, the women create natural bath and body products that are as kind to the environment as they are to the body. All sales proceeds go back into the program.

Through Thistle Farms, the women of Magdalene gain much needed job skills, and learn responsibility and cooperation. Into every product goes the belief that freedom starts with healing, and love can change lives. Our dream is that people will come to see Thistle Farms as a humble but powerful business synonymous with women’s freedom.

Why Thistle?

Considered a weed, thistles grow on the streets and alleys where the women of Magdalene walked. But, thistles have a deep tap root that can shoot through thick concrete and survive drought. And in spite of their prickly appearance, their royal and soft purple center makes the thistle a mysterious and gorgeous flower.

Carolyn Snell, our wonderful Thistle Farms liason!

Our group was invited to tour Thistle Farms. At 9am, a large group of people circled a lighted candle and started the Daily Meditation. A woman read a passage from a book about secrets, the topic for the days’ meditation.  From there, we went around the circle and introduced ourselves, much like an AA meeting. Sometimes that’s all that was said.  Other women elaborated about who they were, the secrets they had kept in their lives and how it became toxic in both body and soul. It was one of those moments in life where I absolutely know for certain that I:

  1. Will never be the same.
  2. Recognize the courage it takes for a person to truly acknowledge themselves, faults and all.
  3. Are overwhelmed that places like this exist and were built to help.

There were a few comments made that rocked me hard and I wrote them down to share: 

Freedom ain’t free.

Turns out, the only person I was keeping secrets from was myself.

I’m not ashamed of my past, I'm proud of my future.

I learned early on that I don’t have to dance with everybody, but I have to dance with somebody.

I am breaking the cycle of secrets.

When you put these statements into context – a long history of abuse, drug addiction, crime, broken families and lives – they MEAN something. Something big.  It was truly an amazing experience.

Once the mediation time was over, they went into some general business and house-keeping issues: pick up your trash, make sure the back door is locked, thanks to the candle folks who worked overtime – just like any other staff meeting at any other business. There were clearly ladies ready to get to work, others who wanted to socialize – just like any office.

The "no nonsense" supervisor. As a graduate of the program, this lady knows what she's doing. I was impressed.


A Thistle Farm employee prepping bottle for labeling.

Happiness found in candle making!

We got a lovely tour of the work space, the packaging and shipping areas and I had the opportunity to stop and talk to two women.  Neither of the women is considered a graduate yet, but I was moved to share their stories.

“Mary” is 32 years old and had been at Magdalene house and Thistle Farms for 9 months.  She had been on probation for drug use, got caught using and the courts took her son away from her.  In order to keep her son out of child services and with her mother, Mary entered the 2-year program at Thistle Farms. She got her GED and was just accepted into cosmetology school. Her number one motivation is her son.

Listening to Mary's story.

“Alice” is 39 years old and has been at Thistle Farms for 2 months. She started using crack cocaine at 13 years old. After 8 years of addiction, she was able to kick the crack habit, but switched to alcohol. This is her 5th program and she was order by a judge to Thistle Farms. The judge pulled her order, but Alice has decided to stay. It’s her goal to “break the co-dependency cycle.” Her big news?  She’s just gotten her driver’s license back.

Inspired by Alice!

Thistle Farms creates  a myriad of amazing products. They have yummy smelling candles, lip balms, shower gels (my personal fave), lotions, body balms and essential healing oils. The products are all natural, made by hand and smell and feel great. Honestly, they do.  I was scared to try them because I have really sensitive skin – but they are glorious! They feel and smell so good! And you know what else? They have built partnerships with other women’s groups in Rwanda and Uganda to import the little bags they sell their “Summer Survival Kit” in! So cool.

So what is the point of this blog post? You can help. Today. Right Now.  For every comment, tweet, Facebook post or link to this article from your blog  (either here with The Thirty-Something Bride or on ABG or BOTH!), Ashley and I will team up and donate a $1 to the women of Thistle Farms.  That’s right!  Do what you gotta do – we’re picking up the tab.

What I want to stress the most about this post is the fact that you CAN register for something other than stuff.  You can link directly to Thistle Farms and donate on-line. I would love for you to choose Thistle Farms. But if you choose another, more personally meaningful charity, that’s great too!  While I was in love with the idea of Thistle Farms, we actually ended up choosing The American Cancer foundation. The Candyman’s mom died of cancer and my aunt was unable to come to my wedding as she was undergoing chemo at the time (she’s now in remission!).  We made a tough personal choice on this one. Hopefully, your choice will be easier. And I can’t tell you how happy we were to get cards from our friends and family who donated. It felt so wonderful and I encourage all brides to do the same.

Some other choices that Thistle Farms is offering:

In lieu of favors – framed signs and post cards for donations made in the names of your guests. Printed on handmade, thistle paper (natch).


Wedding Favors – Lip balms and postcards.


 Gift Baskets - Perfect for your maids!

Bridal Showers – Thistle Farms employees will com come to you to share their personal stories of hope as well as samples of goodies to buy!  You can also bring groups to Thistle Farms for tours, just like we did!

The easiest way to support Thistle Farms is to leave a comment and help spread the word!  When you share today's post on Twitter or Facebook or as a link on your blog, The Thirty-Something Bride and ABG will donate $1 to Thistle Farms. Fan-fucking-tastic, right? So share and mention @T30SB and @thistlefarms and link to this article (http://bit.ly/cgFQAP). EASY-PEASY!

Celebrate your wedding day with products that truly say, “Love heals.”

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Reader Comments (58)

What a great organization. Thanks for sharing!

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShannon

This is wonderful! I did meet one of these ladies at the Sex and the City party and was humbled and impressed. I can imagine how inspiring it was to visit. I was sad that we had already purchased all of our favors, but that doesn't mean I can't comment away and buy their wonderful products for any occasion. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story and cause with the world!

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLittle Spoon

Thank you for sharing this story. I will be sure to spread the word to my contacts.

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

I'll comment to this! Awesome lady!

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKristine

go thistle farms!

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteralecia

Whew... this was a tough one to read. But it's a great thing all of these women are doing for their lives, their children and the environment.

We did a non-profit registry. I just couldn't stand taking home all this stuff. I wish I had known about Thistle Farms ahead of time, I would have most definitely included them.

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAngie

I use their lotion. Good stuff.

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy Lynn

Sounds like they're doing great work. Healing from drug and sexual abuse and prostitution is a definitely a tough challenge to take on and a lot of people don't want to talk about it.

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElaine

Thistle Farms rocks! It saved my life just by being associated with it.

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJEC

Thank you for getting the world about this wonderful organization. I'm definitely going to look into their products.

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMs. Bunny

That is so amazing!!! Thank you for this...I needed it today :)

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJenni

What a great way to pay it forward! My heart goes out to these women working so hard to get their lives back on track. Thanks for bringing Thistle Farm to our attention.

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBarefoot

And, I linked to it on my blog. Hope you get lots of readers & make a huge donation!

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBarefoot

Inspiring ... what a great mission (with a great product line!)

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJenn

Wow what a great charity! Def going to check out their website & the store next time I'm in Nashville.

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDancy

@Barefoot - Thanks for the link, Doll! The ladies will appreciate it, of that I'm certain!

August 24, 2010 | Registered CommenterLouise

Louise, what an inspiring and amazing organization. I was truly inspired by the courage of all of those involved in Thistle Farms. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this!

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJonathon

posted on FB and twittered. Will post a blog as soon as possible.

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSharon

I love Thistle Farms. It's such a great organization that provides hope in so many ways to so many people, especially when you consider that this isn't only changing the women's lives but their children's as well. Good job, ladies!

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarie

Good stuff! Thanks for sharing!!

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRachael

Nice job, Louise!

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKim

This is amazing, thank you so much for sharing. I didn't see gift baskets available online - do you know how one orders them? I'm interested as bridal party gifts, etc... Either way, will definitely keep this organization in mind and try to support them as much as possible!

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

What a great cause. My best to all.

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJames Haggerty

thank you to everyone for the wonderful comments and for spreading the word about thistle farms. we are indeed grateful! we love to have visitors so please come see us sometime (5122 Charlotte Pike). sending prayers and love to all,

marlei and the women of magdalene/thistle farms

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermarlei

What an uplifting story, featuring such an inspiring group of women. Thanks for sharing, Louise. I'd be proud to help spread the word!

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Crawford

Rock on! I had no idea something this cool was in my own backyard (so to speak)!

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristy V

great stuff!

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJay T

I was so inspired that I blogged about it too! Inspiration: http://www.depositagift.com/blog/weddings/inspiration-weave-charitable-giving-into-your-registry/

Thanks for the beautiful story, photos and inspiration! About to go twitter it out and post to our FB page :)

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDana

This is great!

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSavannah

Thistle Farms sounds amazing! What an awesome way to help get women back on track!

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavanie

I love organizations like these. I'm very happy to help with a comment, tweet and a link.

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Inspiring photography, great words and a mission that has gotten and deserves a lot of visability in Nashville but needs to be heard around the world.
Thanks for the post Louise

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJF

I love Thistle Farms & the entire crew over there. Seeing from where they came from an old carriage style home in Belle Meade to their new location on Charlotte makes me so happy. Its so inspiring to sit in on their 9am groups to share but also to listen their powerful testimonies. I learned about them in a dual way, Octoberfest in Germantown last year, but also Whole Body in Green Hills. The products are amazing, Carolyn makes me smile & the ladies handle business.

Great organization to give back!!

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLatrice

What a wonderful project and some very awe-inspiring women!

August 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAebbe

Wow, tough stuff... amazing stories from amazing women.

August 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPaula@DWI

What a loving and special thing for you to do, and clearly this visit was a great experience for all of you. I hope the ladies of Magdalene/Thistle Farms appreciated you as much as you do them.

August 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjan

Not just restoring health and safety to these ladies, but dignity through enterprise. Class act. Outstanding.

August 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRob Dearmon

This is amazing. Absolutely amazing. I feel the need to tell everyone I know. Facebook posts and tweets to come soon!!

August 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

@EVERYONE! Keep it coming! Keep it coming! I've decided I'll keep the comments open for at least another day, if not until the end of the week.
I love how everyone is sharing and branching out! This really is an incredible group doing really amazing things!
Smooches, Louise

August 25, 2010 | Registered CommenterLouise

Love that these gals are getting a fresh start. Sounds like a really good organization!

August 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDaisy

shared on fb!

August 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAngie

beautiful! thank you!

August 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterVanessa

I have ordered from Thistle Farms previously, and love their products. The founder of Thistle Farms is an Episcopal priest, and her ministry is inspiring. How blessed all the women are who participate in this program. We need many more just like it!

August 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWylie

Thank you so much for sharing about this inspiring organization and for working with ABG to help support Thistle Farms.

August 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBecca

Truly inspiring!

August 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersilvana

thank you so much for sharing this story-- I love Thistle Farms and what they do-- so inspirational!!

August 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterhillary @ brocade

This post really stuck with me yesterday and has prompted me to look for like minded groups in my community. Thank you, Louise, for bringing it to my attention.

August 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkc

Sounds amazing! And the photos are fantastic!

August 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGEW

News of your organization is spreading, globally,
and technology is on your side. I read about
Thistle Farms and immediately posted your
website onto my Facebook page.

Within an hour, I received positive feedback from other
women, who are living in two different countries.

So, ladies, keep on walking your talk. You are doing
a fantastic job.

August 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSue Babcock

@Sue AWESOME, Sue! Go global! Go Global!!!!

August 25, 2010 | Registered CommenterLouise
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