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 Bus Riders

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Greg and Jeffery

Meet Greg and Jeffery. They will be riding along with us over the next eight weeks, as we make our way from Phoenix, AZ to Dubuque, IA.

Greg is a recent History graduate from St. Norberts College in Green Bay, WI. We met Greg about five years ago through mutual friends and have watched him grow into a fine musician and man. His project, Yosemite has opened for us several times in the North East Wisconsin area and when he requested to ride the bus we were stoked.

Jeffery is a professional musician, aviator, and nature lover from my home town, Grand Rapids, MI. We met Jeffery last summer while working at the Small Wonders Farm just north of Grand Rapids. We extended an invitation and conversations lead to his commitment to serve alongside us during this leg of our journey.

They both arrived in PHX a week ago to 101 degree temps and the harsh reality of 300 square feet with no air conditioning. They are troopers however, and both found ways to jump into community with us, connecting with our hosts, helping with building projects and sharing in late night jams. We’ll be traveling over 3000 miles these next few weeks, working alongside organizations doing some amazing things to care for and promote community. Our music touring schedule will be light but we don’t doubt there will be plenty of time and kinfolk to play a song or two with.

Bus ConversionOur hope for Jeffery and Greg is that they will be encouraged by our families commitment to learning, community, and the ministry of reconciliation. We hope they will walk away inspired to live in the moment, to swim upstream, and to see on a very personal level the interconnectedness of humanity to a faithful God.

Our routing takes us to: Albuquerque, NM, Santa Fe, NM, Austin, TX, Dallas, TX, Hot Springs, AR, Nashville, TN, Bowling Green, KY, and on up to Dubuque, IA (with a few stops in-between)

 

SERFA

20130520-223147.jpgThis past weekend we participated in community and song at the Southeastern Regional Folk Alliance Conference in Montreat, North Carolina. “Community” was the buzz word going around all weekend and as community seekers and encouragers, we were taken with the genuineness of that sentiment. We met so many beautiful and engaging souls, had life-giving conversations, shared lovely meals with each other, enjoyed late night jams and heard so many amazingly creative and inspiring songs.

SERFA is a chapter of the International Folk Alliance. We have been to a few other regional conferences as well as the International in Memphis and they all have their own flavor. Some are more hustle and business focused, but it’s folk music for goodness sakes, and at the end of the day it really is about community.  Not gonna lie though, we do look for ways to present our talents in hopes of finding work. This year when we were accepted as “official showcase” artists, we were overjoyed and looked forward to showcasing our families latest body of work, ‘Over Land and Leas.

Being a family first, we aren’t the typical band. And so, there were all sorts of dynamics and things to take into consideration as we prepared for this event. Including rehearsals, home school, meals, bus logistics, sleep schedules, attitude adjustments and basic marriage maintenance. As a mom, there were a few thoughts that went through my mind this weekend regarding our children’s participating at SERFA. First, I was absolutely humbled by their general willingness to engage at the conference, including going to their first business meeting. Second, the poise and graciousness that they offered to those that would approach them or that they would approach was beautiful to watch. There was such a joy listening to them engage in conversation with all these adults.

20130520-212256.jpgBy the time we took the stage on Saturday night, the pride this mama had towards her children was brimming. We were performing but the whole while I could barely take my eyes off of my children and husband. During our second song, Graciana took the reigns and it was all I could do to not break down in tears. This was the image that washed over me.

We are on a mountain: I imagine an elder (me) and a child (Graciana), they are yoked together and the elder is pulling the child up the side of a cliff, strong footing, carrying the burden and pouring into that child with everything she has. It is a healthy yoke, meaning not manipulated for either parties personal gain. It is a long journey but the elder is committed to the youth and near the top of the mountain the child finds a firm footing and begins to move on dependable legs. For a moment, the youth and the adult are neither lifting or pulling but balancing each other. Both looking out over the glorious valley below.  There is a subtle shift and the focus begins to change. The weight lightens for the elder and the strong footing that the elder once had becomes unstable. For the first time, the youth recognizes the weight and makes a choice to share the load. The youth offers a brace to the elder as they enjoy the view a bit longer. There is no resentment, only an understanding that this journey is not their own, that they are connected to the core of their marrow.

20130520-212223.jpgI can’t describe it any other way, but while on that stage, I could feel the balance between my daughter and myself, it was a mutual respect and delight. I could feel our energies working together in harmony. The picture was of an elder lifting up while the younger helps her elder down.

I wonder if this ideal of reciprocal respect and support is possible in our greater culture, specially in the music industry where ageism is such an epidemic? We grow up in a society that segregates its population based on age. Marketing in almost every capacity is targeted to a specific age group and as we grow up there is little contact with others who are not in our demographic. It seems that many mentor programs, probably built with good intentions, are hierarchical. I wonder if we are missing a bigger picture? There is a richness and depth available to both those climbing the mountain and those traversing down and I don’t think it just applies to our mother and daughter experience. I wonder if it is possible to create and nurture this image, giving opportunities for young and old to find this deep connectivity? I think it is attainable, remembering when one falls we all fall, when one is honored we are all honored.

 

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