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 So often we travel for pleasure. We take a break from routine and we bask in new spaces of adventure, food and relaxation. I love a good break from the everyday grind but travel typically feels complete when I can explore a project or an organization which elevates women, children or those in the margins. During our get away to Nashville, TN we spent an afternoon soaking in the vibe of wellness that is Thistle Farms, the largest social enterprise in the country run by survivors. With so much recent chaos and noise in our broken world Thistle Farms was a breath of fresh air for our souls.

The visit did not yet feel complete when I ran back in to grab a photo of something I had forgotten to capture. It was one of those God interruptions as I like to call them. I scurried through the entrance and was soon greeted by a strong inviting woman who had been smiling at me from afar as I roamed the cafe area capturing a few photos.  It was as if we both needed to meet, an energy I can’t quite explain. Her vibe of welcome was equal to her vibe of welcome and I was so happy she came over to shake my hand and greet me. Introductions were easy and our conversations immediately went deep.

“Thank you for being so nice and so welcoming. You look like so much fun to be around,” I said.

“You know something, She responded. I lived 35 years thinking I had to be loaded to be any fun. I have finally learned that I can be fun without all the drugs or alcohol.”

Her words hit me hard.  I have had similar thoughts. When can I pour a glass of wine in order to relax or make this outing fun?  What can I do to escape this pain or the reality of this tough situation? In that brief encounter I saw myself.  How close so many of us live to falling below the safety net and how close we all tread to addictive behaviors that can quickly steal our souls.

I reacted with as much compassion as I could saying, “I understand. We all have those narratives and behaviors that can harm and deplete us. Can I ask how you became connected here?”

Her smile widened and she said, “Oh girl I hit rock bottom after being in and out of jail and losing my entire family. They had to be done with me. This place, this job and the 12 steps have changed my entire life. I am three years sober and I now have my young teenage daughter back.”

We beamed together as I hugged her and asked if I could be in touch with her. I told her I was planning to share about the mission of Thistle Farms and knew our brief but profound conversation would be a part of my writing.  She opened a brochure to show me her daughter who now volunteers at the cafe and my heart nearly burst as I said, “Just keep going, keep working and keep shining your light.”

Thistle Farms is a place you should know. They are a non-profit enterprise dedicated to helping women survivors recover and heal from prostitution, trafficking and addiction. They do so by providing a two year residential program with housing, meals, therapy, education and unending support. Residents and graduates then have the opportunity to work within one of their social enterprises to feel purpose, earn a living wage and improve skills. Lastly, they have a valuable sisterhood network of support with a full alumni network.

I invite you to learn more about the purpose and tremendous beauty that is Thistle Farms. They sell thoughtful products made by survivors. Your purchase will impact a woman moving from addiction and into wellness. Thistle Farms is a stunning template of love. Survivors say it is a place and a community of caring where second and third chances are possible and families can see that it is possible to not only change but thrive again.

Visit: https://thistlefarms.org/ to learn more.