Every year as Mother's Day rolls around, the irises are blooming in the hills of Tennessee, and I think of my mom.
I wish I could pour her a hot cup of tea.
She was a single mom after my father was killed on her 35th birthday by a drunk driver. She raised five children by herself working 60 hours a week at a Nashville community center.
We endured some hard times after my dad's death.
Money was tight, but my mom's creativity was strong. She taught us the best gifts are handmade and loving people is a great privilege.
She loved tea and flowers, so for years I made gifts for Mother’s Day, homemade vases, clay teacups, and tea towels.
I grew up to be my momma’s daughter. I became a minister, focused on loving people and making homemade crafts.
I founded Thistle Farms over a decade ago as a bath and body care company run by women who have survived lives of trafficking, addiction and prostitution. I get to create homemade products and love people everyday. Women come and live in community for two years at no cost and begin the journey of healing.
Many of the women share a past like mine that holds stories of tragedy, sexual abuse, and resilience.
It was important to start a company so women could be economically independent and make restitution to the courts and their children. We named it Thistle Farms to be a symbol of beauty and toughness, and because it was the flower on my mom's teacups.
My mom didn't live to see Thistle Farms begin, but I feel her spirit there all the time.
I feel it when one of the 40 women who works for the company shares a story about seeing her children for the first time, or making a car payment for the first time, or beginning the journey of forgiving and reuniting with her parents.
This year one of the Thistle Farms’ employees spoke about her Mother’s Day gift this year to her mom. It was a homemade card, made from thistle paper, that said, “I love you. It’s so great because I mean it,” she said. “For the first time in years I have forgiven her and forgiven myself for it all. I am so grateful to her."
That is the gift of Mother’s Day, to be able to say I love you and mean it.
I love the women of Thistle Farms and their powerful voices that proclaim the strongest force in all the world is love.
I love my mom so much and wish just once more I could make her a beautiful pot of tea, pour it in her thistle cup and thank her for everything.
Instead I just keep doing what I know she loved: going to work everyday and being about the business of loving the world--one person at a time.
Becca Stevens is an author, priest and founder of Thistle Farms, a social enterprise for women who have survived prostitution, trafficking and addiction. For more, visit ThistleFarms.org.
The Rev. Becca Stevens is an Episcopal priest serving as Chaplain at St Augustine's at Vanderbilt University, and founder of Magdalene, a two-year residential community of women who have survived prostitution, trafficking and addiction. She is the author of the new book "The Way of Tea and Justice."