Mum Jones

12249731_10153326378984053_6258699912709864565_nDebra Jones was known to many as “Mum Jones,” a mentor and Mom in the tribe where no one is left out. She was a voice in the wilderness, brave, kind, soft yet fierce, and she stayed the course, diving deeper and deeper into her faith, giving up more and more of herself. In June of this year, Debbie passed on through to the other side and although she may never be canonized by a religious institution, I dare say that the tribe she’s impacted along the way would deem her a Saint through and through.

I met Debbie’s husband, Andrew Jones, in 1998 at Cornerstone Music Festival. He was speaking to a group of raver kids called FoundKids that my cousin and I happened upon. We were taken in by the whole scene but I was specifically inspired to hear about Andrew and his families nomadic lifestyle. His stories of wandering around the globe with the intent of just showing up, to be available, encouraging the marginalized. His stories stirred something deep inside of me and a seed was planted that I believe has had a significant influence in our journey.

417872_10151463524703121_2043070706_nAt the time, I was a single mom and longed to hear from a mother’s heart. So, I asked if I could visit with his family.  My hope was to sit with his wife Debbie and ask her questions about her journey into this radical surrender to Abba, trusting Him with her five children and with all of her needs. Back then, they were living out of an old RV and were temporally parked in a suburb of Chicago. They invited me over for an afternoon and as we sat outside of the RV talking, the kids all running in and out, I felt a sense of peace come over me and knew that whatever may come, I had found an example of a life well lived. I had found one of my mentors.

We would only have that one meeting face to face but I followed the family over the years and as my life intersected with Craig’s and we married, I told him all about these kindred spirits. We kept tabs on them and when the time came for us to take our leap of faith, they were the first family we looked to for encouragement.

Over the years, we kept up with them at www.tallskinnykiwi.com and via Facebook. In 2014, we had a few lovely interactions with Andrew and a few of the children, now adults while we were parked in Austin, TX. Each visit bringing with it a deeper sense of camaraderie. Then, in our most recent inter web exchange Debbie reached out to coordinate a meet up but in the end we found ourselves on different continents and hoped to look toward 2016 to unite. However, she did mention that if we made our way to Bulgaria, they’d be happy for us to borrow “Maggie,” their current rig, which was quite tempting. 🙂

Recently, we watched on as Debbie and Andrew split, like a cell, to cover more ground. It would be the first extended period of time that they would move on different continents. Debbie had a missional impulse towards developmental aid in Africa and Andrew felt a pull towards refugee relief in Europe. We were absolutely amazed as we witnessed their courage and discipline and were blown away by their supernatural trust!

11390519_1619216628316768_3253796670653706618_nThen, just two months ago, as they were making their way back towards one another, an urgent prayer request came in. Both Debbie and Andrew were in hospital, one in Ghana and one in Ethiopia, both in critical condition. The prayers poured in, but not even twenty-four hours later we learned that Debbie had passed, her final words, “I am here.” Andrew, who is slowly recovering, writes about it in his memorial blog called ‘Debbie’s Final Words, Angels and More. Andrew states that the words are actually quite moving, as the “phrase points to the strategic impact of actually turning up and being fully present with people in their context.” It was a phrase that she learned while loving alongside the Ethiopian tribe called “Ashanti.” He says that Debbie “felt that nomads, like herself, offered a special gift in turning up to the hidden places and evaluating the real needs and formulating a holistic and sustainable result.” As a fellow nomad this resonates wholly!

12234975_10207502130131979_4625256212437588854_nDebbie surrendered her own body, with its particular itinerary, desires, and even needs, to become one with the breath and message of God. And, this is why she will forever be a Saint in my mind.

Our hearts are heavy and yet, rejoicing, longing for that day that we will meet again.

Blessing to the Jones family and all of the many kinfolk around the world who have their own beautiful stories to tell about this precious woman. May the stories continue flow, to inspire and bear much lush fruit.

To read the full article by Andrew visit ‘Debbie’s Final Words, Angels and More.

Read it, you’ll be inspired too.

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Hashtag Community

instagramWhat the heck is a hash tag, and why should I use them? We get this question all the time and usually answer it by saying the # is a way of “filing” your photo into a world-wide folder with photos that also have that same hashtag. The purpose is to link up people who have similar interests. So for instance, say you were into tea, you could start an instagram and use it as a way to document different tea shops you’d visit, teas and big hats via photo and then when you post those photos, you’d hashtag something like #teaaddiction. When you had a moment, you’d click on #teaaddiction and find all sorts of kinfolk who love tea. You could look through their photos and maybe even click on their profile, eventually making friends, finding solace in your tea fanaticism.

For us, social media outlets that use hashtags, specially Instagram have allowed us the privilege of meeting so many wonderful traveling kinfolk along our way. Just hashtag #busconversion,  #familyontheroad, #ditchingsuburbia, or #homeiswhereyouparkit and boom, they are all there; nomadic kinfolk, wanderlust rangers and road-school families. These tools provide opportunities to make an initial contact, where we can develop a slow adoration for those we follow, bonding over shared experiences and eventually leading to a #meetup. That’s when the real fun starts for us! Those moments of serendipity when we find ourselves in the same neck of the woods as fellow travelers, reaching out, setting a meeting time and place and making that first face to face connection, is sheer excitement and delight.

IMG_2192We’ve met up in MI with fellow bus owners, Herd of Turtles (The Shanks Family riding in an Eagle) and Scott and Heather Bennet (MCI owners), sharing a meal, stories of our bus conversions, and music by the campfire. Also, fellow bus owners Technomadia, who we met up with in California. When we pulled into the state park, they heard our 2stroke engine and came a running. We spent that evening sharing bus stories and tricks of the trade.

Our nomadic community isn’t just limited to bus owners, as we’ve met up with “The Van With No Plan” brothers, Josh and Matt in Phoenix AZ, where we learned about their adventures in multiple vehicles and drive to bring joy wherever they go. We met up with “meredithmarieyo” in Austin TX and learned the Texas Two Step. Also, in Austin we met up with world troubadour, Andrew Jones, from Jonesberries, one of our greatest inspirations and in our opinion, the original traveling family. And, then there was that quick but fruitful breakfast at Cracker Barrel in Lafayette, LA with One Year Road Trip (The Webb Family). We can’t forget The Wayfaring Family in Lexington, KY hosting us for a few nights, sharing stories of their one year of world travel, and adjusting back to home life. Then there was our recent link up with 5th wheelers, Wandering Jess (The Marshall Family) in Pensacola FL and The Boyink family (aka Ditching Suburbia) at Silverspring State Park, Florida. Both of which shared stories of faith, motivation for full-time travel and raising teenagers on the road.

They all have their own beautiful stories of how they transitioned from life on the ground to life on the road. They all make their way doing different sorts of jobs, some work remote corporate jobs, some IT jobs, some bloggers, some pick up odd jobs, some do photography and some are film makers. Some have children and those who do have all sorts of ways they home school, from online resources to unschool. Some have pets, some have spouse and some have both.  They all travel in an array of vehicles from 5th wheels, classic airstreams, campers, buses, vans, to cars & bicycles. Some have converted their vehicles and some have bought them off of the lot. Some folks, downsize all the way, some still have homes, etc… Some have an abundance of resources and some live day to day. One thing they all have in common however, is their commitment to swimming upstream, seeking freedom, asking tough questions about societal norms and pushing against the status quo.

IMG_0155Everyday a new traveler, family or couple ends up in our different hashtag folders and when they do we reach out welcoming them to this community of drifters and wanderers. We’re always keeping an eye on the whereabouts of our fellow travelers, hoping that the wind might blow us together sooner than later. These moments of connectivity with our nomadic community are inspiring and reassure us that we’re not odd or alone, we are part of a bigger picture, in it together. #neverstopexploring #community

You can find us on Instagram at The Hollands and on Twitter at The_Hollands