Whenever we host a Darling Dinner, the intention goes far beyond just enjoying a great meal with one another; it is truly a chance to connect at a deeper level and leave encouraged and refreshed.

If you’ve been to our dinners, you know that each one is centered around a theme. For this one held in the Cafe at Thistle Farms in Nashville, TN, the word was obvious right from the inception: Light.

This is due to the fact that Becca Stevens, the founder of Thistle Farms, has created a company that literally pushes back the darkness on a daily basis by providing long-term housing, healthcare, and therapy for survivors of prostitution, trafficking and addiction without charging residents. They also provide survivors employment through their Body & Home line, The Café of Thistle Farms, and a Global Market.

With the dinner held in the Thistle Farms Café, we couldn’t help but talk about how we each hold a “light,” something we can give to others to encourage them—whether it be just our life story itself, a piece of advice, or a hug that says, “I’ve been there, too.”

As fifty women gathered, we started out by chatting and taking all the necessary selfies with wine by Winc in hand and cocktails by Hamilton Bartending, along with crostini appetizers with whipped goat cheese and strawberry bruschetta.

The dining area was so stunning with table design by Alex Cantrell from The New Eclectic with an aesthetic that was modern, warm and curated, yet bold at the same time—with hints of dusty rose and mustard yellow. 

Alex even hand dyed all the napkins into the most beautiful pink tone we’d ever seen! It was a cozy, welcoming and calming space to enter, and we settled in for the intro to the evening by Darling Founder Sarah Dubbeldam and Becca Stevens. They each told their stories of overcoming hardship in their lives and how although these times were tough, they brought about vision for what they do now—encouraging women to thrive, heal and find light again.

As the first course was served—a stunning colorful salad with shaved watermelon radishes, chioggia beets, heirloom carrots, pickled onions, and goat cheese—we started wth our icebreaker question:

What is the story behind your shoes?

 The room filled with laughter as women lifted up their feet around the tables to show one another their shoes and the story of where they got them and why they chose them.

As the main course was brought out—airline chicken breasts with eggplant tapenade and dill-yogurt sauce along with  tabbouleh w/ tomatoes, cucumbers, and fresh herbs—Sarah shared the second question:

 What’s something you’ve been through that you’ve seen light come from?

First opening up about her own struggles with severe anxiety and depression, she set the level of depth and the permission to “go there,” for the room. It’s interesting how as women, it can be so hard to put down our masks and share what’s really going on, or even where we’ve truly come from. As people began to share, a special love and care fell upon the room—there were tears or sadness and joy, shared experiences, and a general feeling of celebration for the light that has come out of the hard places, and the rough patches that have been made smooth.

A big surprise of the evening was having renowned singer/songwriter, artist and entrepreneur, Amy Stroup play a song for us live between each table question—each filled with vivid storytelling and rich, emotional honesty. She is multi-talented as part of the acclaimed group, Sugar & The High-Lows, but also one of the most licensed females in music today. Her music helped each of us soak up all that had been said and that we learned from each conversation.

Becca Stevens posed the third question: 

What special light do you hold? 

This thought brought up the fact that no matter how big or small, we each have a light that we can shine in whatever environment we find ourselves in. We might be at home with our kids, or at a 9-5 job, or starting a business—whatever it is, we each carry something and we shouldn’t measure our light against anyone else’s. 

Lastly, dessert was served—an orange almond layered cake w/ whipped cream, fresh berries and edible flowers. The last question of the evening was a call to leave the evening with vision and fresh inspiration:

What’s the distant light on the horizon for you? 

This was a lovely question to end on—speaking out into existence the things we’ve been pondering or dreaming about for our future. 

Women stayed long after the dinner, chatting and exchanging numbers, along with peeking into the lovely gift bags from the following sponsors:

Missio Hair: A beautiful gold scarf that can be worn so many ways! They also have an amazing hair care line that’s incredible product that gives back to victims of sex trafficking. 

ABLE: A gorgeous ring from Nashville based lifestyle brand that has beautiful bags, jewelry, fashion and shoes. They focus on ending generational poverty by working with women who have often overcome extraordinary circumstances and manufacture directly in the communities they wish to impact—also publishing wages publicly to be fully transparent. 

Dakotah Smith Designs: A Pinky Promise Enamel Pin Set that is great kept together or split up to give to your best friend, your #1, your sibling, your S.O., your mom – the options are endless!

We are so thankful to Thistle Farms for co-hosting this dinner with us, and continue to support the work that they do. 

Images by Shelley Roberts

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