2020 …

How do you open a letter about 2020 and say something that hasn’t already been said a million times? It’s been a weird and wild year, at times wonderful and sometimes ridiculously hard. We’re guessing that’s been your experience too.

Visiting Powell Gardens with friends at the end of 2019. We’ll miss seeing them this Christmas.

When the year began, we had no idea what would come. Looking back now, seeing our friend David Wayne Reed’s show Goliath to start 2020 may have been a bit of preparation. His own stories are stranger/better than fiction and inspire faith that we can face what life throws at us and come out better on the other side.

But in early 2020, we were simply trying to keep up with what was life at the time. Work was busy for Jon and Kate. Ian was enjoying school and lego club, and Kate had begun helping with a winterguard program at his school in addition to volunteering as a reading mentor. Jon was wrapping up his time playing with Mr. Golden Sun and we tried to hang out with friends as much as possible.

We bought tickets at the last minute to see Pepperland by the Mark Morris Dance Group and the Kansas City Ballet’s Swan Lake in February – very different from each other, but both were spectacular. At the end of the month, we hosted a house show with Little Spoon River and friends Nate Allen of Good Saint Nathaniel and Marty Hillard of Ebony Tusks. March brought the only performance of the school winterguard, which was incredibly fun for Kate to be a part of, along with Ebony Tusks and Elevator Division shows and dinners with friends.

It seemed almost excessive at the moment, but we ended up being grateful we spent a lot of time with people, music, and art we love. It turned out that we got to enjoy them all leading up to the world shutting down.

The rest of the spring is a blur. All three of us suddenly doing everything at home was rough. Jon had the impossible task of trying to guide teachers through suddenly working with special education students online. Kate’s job was busier than ever as nonprofits had to adjust all fundraising and communications efforts. After a welcome and smooth transition to a new school in the fall, Ian struggled with no longer being in person with friends and a teacher he appreciated. Two parents working full-time in jobs that needed attention didn’t often work well with a child at home who needed interaction and some assistance with distance learning.

We knew it was exhausting at the time, but are just realizing how difficult it was for each of us. And it has remained so to some extent. We’re all still at home, trying to navigate getting everything done for jobs while giving Ian what time we can. It’s better, but still not easy. And at this point, it’s how things will be for a while as jobs and school plan to keep everyone at home for now.

Our niece (Ian’s cousin) turned two this summer, and Kate’s brother and sister-in-law took some family pictures at the birthday party.

There was some breathing room over the summer as Jon had time off and was able to do a virtual summer school with Ian, but those months brought other things to wrestle with. We left our church. It was a couple of years in coming and for a range of concerns, but still heavy after being there a decade. We’ve got more questions than answers as we process events in our lives over those same years, yet we have faith and are slowly figuring out what to make of that. We saw racial and political issues in the country reach levels we’ve not experienced in our lifetime. While those things continue to push many further apart as people in power and their supporters fight to hold on to what they think they deserve, it’s brought a lot of important conversations. We’ve always talked with Ian about what we believe, how we want to live, and why. This year has made talks more detailed and frequent, especially as protests occurred near our home. Much of what has happened touches people and parts of the city we care about. We hope we can do our small part, and teach him to do his, to make this a better place.

And yet, in everything, there are reasons to be grateful. The three of us have valued a walkable neighborhood and wonderful outdoor spaces around the Kansas City area, particularly along the Missouri River. We’ve tried to support our favorite local restaurants and shops as much as we can and are glad they’re surviving so far. Occasional get-togethers with a few friends and regular visits with Jon’s dad and step-mom have been bright spots. In a search for something to do in place of soccer, Ian ended up taking a virtual ballet class and was surprised by how much he liked it. Kate’s loved seeing him try out dance and discover a new interest. Being an only child home with parents is tough, but we’re thankful for his creativity, curiosity, and love of legos as well as the technology for him to chat with friends.

School at home, never a dull moment.

We’re also very grateful for the schools we’re connected to and the thoughtfulness and immense amount of work done by leaders and staff. We already had a lot of respect for Jon’s principal and many of his co-workers and the teachers and administrators at Ian’s school, but they have been incredible throughout this year. It’s been encouraging to see them do everything they can for the kids they serve. We know 2020 has looked very different in various schools here and around the country (and the world), and we’re so thankful for where we are. Learning from home is far from ideal, but our schools are making the best of it.

As huge numbers of people go into the holiday season dealing with loss, we’re grateful we’ve been healthy and not endured the pain, suffering, and hardships forced on others. We’ve tried to be safe during the pandemic, partly out of our desire to take it seriously and do what we can to slow the spread and partly to be able to spend time with family who needs people to be careful. We’re glad we have jobs and schools that have made that possible. As insane as much of 2020 has been, we know people are facing much crazier circumstances than us and too many who’ve lost family, friends, jobs, and more. We’re praying that maybe something will start to shift and the needs of people will be more of a concern that drives action and change.

A last-minute birthday/anniversary selfie at home seems like the appropriate way to capture 2020.

We’re looking forward to Christmas. It’s a little bittersweet because we’ve not seen Kate’s parents in a year and don’t know when we will, but we’re ready for a few quiet days to fully stop and enjoy what we can and attempt to prepare for what may come next. This year we’ve gained a bit of clarity on ourselves, both good and bad, and learned we can hold some things loosely while more deeply understanding what is important and needed in our lives. We’re going into 2021 hoping to continue learning and finding the people to do it with.

In last year’s letter, we mentioned something Jon had written: “Maybe I should also, in humility, consider others more important than myself. Maybe I should try to love my neighbor as myself. It’s becoming pretty clear that love is the protest.” That thought shapes our hopes and prayers now even more than we could’ve imagined a year ago. We fail at showing love to each other and the people around us all the time, but we’re trying. And we’re praying that love takes root in hearts and our world in needed ways in the months ahead.

Wherever this finds you, whatever your 2020 looked like, we hope your Christmas is marked by peace and joy.

And we hope to see you in 2021,

The Smiths

Ian loved seeing bald eagles, swans, cranes and swirls of migrating geese at the Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge. We enjoyed a day with Jon’s dad and stepmom as they introduced us to this amazing spot.

2019: A Whirlwind

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

We hope those of you reading this are doing well. We’re ready for the holiday break from work and school that’s just begun. It’s nice to rest as much of this year has flown by and felt difficult and weighty. At the same time, that’s made the good moments stand out so much more.

The first half of the year was spent trying to find clarity and keep our heads up in many ways. Ian was having a lot of issues at school we couldn’t quite figure out, though it was becoming clear the school was a big part of the problem, and he had mono in the spring. Kate was trying to figure out a new job and what that means for her long term after being forced into a big career shift due to layoffs and a period of being unemployed in 2018. The district where Jon works consolidated schools, and his was one of the buildings closed. This left his job up in the air for awhile. To name a few things…


Many thanks to Robert Deeble for a wonderful evening of music

There were big bright spots in the midst of this. In January, we hosted a house show with Robert Deeble. We’ve loved his music for years, and having him play for some friends in our living room was beautiful. We enjoyed a visit from Kate’s aunt and cousin in February. Two college friends of Jon’s started getting us all together for dinner every month or two, which has been really fun. Although we’ve been fans of his for a long time, we saw Jeremy Enigk in concert for the first time this spring and fell in love with the music of his opener, Tomo Nakayama. We also got to see Unwed Sailor and namelessnumberheadman for the first time in years and both were special shows for us.


Enjoying a night at the Music Hall to see the musical, Hamilton

The summer brought needed transitions and time to breathe a little easier. Jon was asked to move to another school within the district as part of a leadership team his principal wanted to keep together in a different building. As Jon’s school was closing, it was a relief to learn that some of the great people he’d started working with would get to move somewhere together. We experienced the incredible musical Hamilton and Kate’s parents visited. Ian got enrolled in a new school and he took a class with the Coterie Theatre and loved it.


A family photo taken by a stranger at Weston Bend State Park (one of the best spots to take in autumn)

This fall has been a blur of wonderful and sad things. Jon’s job as a special education process coordinator at his new school, while rewarding at times, been extremely demanding. There have been challenges with the process of consolidating schools and with supporting students in a struggling district. Kate has still been figuring out aspects of her job and what it means career-wise. Multiple people in our lives have had to deal with unexpected deaths in the last several months (if you can, please consider donating to the wife and kids who lost a husband and father to suicide).

As busy and involved as Jon’s position has been, he knows people in his building and the district value what he does. Working in urban education is difficult, and talking about it can often sound like complaining when that’s not necessarily the case. He’s grateful for the appreciation and support he gets. Even though Kate isn’t sure exactly where her path may or may not lead right now, she is very thankful to have ended up with such an awesome group of co-workers who are glad she’s part of their team and make work fun and as stress-free as possible. A few months ago she received the Allied Member Award from KCSAE, a wonderful surprise.


A piece Ian made this year with oil pastels

One of the best things this fall has been Ian changing schools. Everything with him got better as soon as he started second grade at a new school. He loves his teachers, he’s making new friends and he truly enjoys school again. He’s so much happier and isn’t upset, stressed out, and acting out in class. He still loves art, especially drawing, as well as anything math and science related. His reading continues to be way ahead, and he’s participated in a martial arts club and lego club after school. We’ve been impressed by the staff and the school community and are so glad to be somewhere that’s good for Ian, seems good for us as a family and is a positive presence in our city.

Kate moved her volunteer work with Lead to Read to Ian’s new school and enjoys seeing his class each week. Jon has continued to create music on his own and with friends in Euphoric and Mr. Golden Sun. Ian is still playing soccer and just got his first pair of glasses. We’re grateful for a little time at the end of the year to see family, reflect on all we’ve wrestled with and found joyful moments in, relax some and attempt to ready ourselves for whatever 2020 may bring.


Ian, being visited by the angel Gabriel, after a performance of The Nativity by Mesner Puppet Theater

One thing we feel more deeply this year is the effect of brokenness in our lives, our community and the world. We’ve been more challenged than ever to really embrace what the season of Advent brings to our lives. We face darkness and then celebrate what the birth of Christ means for us, “not as a saccharine act of delusion but as a defiant act of hope” (as one writer says so beautifully). We believe that hope should lead us to love. Something Jon said elsewhere earlier this year in response to current events in our country is becoming more of a theme for us: “Maybe I should also, in humility, consider others more important than myself. Maybe I should try to love my neighbor as myself. It’s becoming pretty clear that love is the protest.”

We pray this finds you hopeful and that we can love each other well in the coming year.

Peace, joy and love to you,

The Smiths 

2018: Expect the Unexpected

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

We hope those of you reading this are doing well. We’re glad to have a little time at home to rest from a crazy year and whirlwind autumn and attempt to ready ourselves for whatever 2019 may bring.

At the start of 2018 we knew there would likely be changes in our lives, but we had no idea what that would mean. Kate was in a weird work situation where things didn’t seem to be improving and she reached a point of knowing it was time to start looking for something else, Jon was made aware of upcoming openings in his school district and began hoping to move up, Ian being in kindergarten and starting soccer was slightly changing some of our time and we started hosting a small group with our church.

In the spring, Kate was one of several people let go from her office (and sadly more have lost jobs since she was laid off). We were hoping she’d find something before anything like that happened, but obviously it was not to be. It was hard to see things fall apart with a job she’d left a few years before and been asked to return to with promises of needed change, but it was also nice to be free from some stress and anxiety and have time for school parties and field trips as Ian finished his first year.

Ian and Lu

We love that Baby Lu is here!

Ian enjoyed kindergarten and his favorite subjects were art and science. He also had fun playing soccer in the spring with kids from his class. As Kate kept job hunting and doing freelance work, we unexpectedly had a summer together at home as a family, which has never happened. We know that time is something we’ll probably always remember, especially since it brought a new cousin! Kate’s brother and sister-in-law had their daughter in June. Baby Lu surprised everyone arriving a month early, but is doing great and is a joy to be around. We loved visits with her and her parents, and had extended family in town as more people came to meet Lucy. We’re glad we had the time to be with everyone.

Going into the fall, Jon had several interviews and was offered a process coordinator position where he would oversee special ed services in a building in his district. He decided to accept, but was not expecting to be assigned to an elementary school – a level he’s never taught. He was able to have some good conversations about his career goals and was told this would be a positive step for him. We’re grateful that it seems to be a good fit. His principal is one of the best he’s ever worked with and he’s learning a lot. He’s happy to be able to help teachers do well and support an excellent administrator, and it’s been encouraging to see how he’s been welcomed and respected in a new role.

Jon and Kate

We enjoyed a night out with friends at the KC Rep’s Fearless Fete this summer. Thanks to the Kimmerlys for a fun evening supporting theater.

Around the time Jon changed jobs, Kate accepted a position with a small marketing agency that primarily works with nonprofits, including a few associations. She’s also been grateful to find a place where she feels wanted on the team and has some fantastic coworkers. It has been and continues to be a big adjustment as it’s not the direction she thought she’d go on a few different levels, but it’s a fun office just down the street from our house and they’ve been a wonderful change in people and atmosphere to work with and in. They’re letting her continue her committee work with KCSAE and her volunteering with Lead To Read at Ian’s school in addition to providing other opportunities to grow in a new direction career-wise (including company blogging – her first post just went up). We’re thankful for what seems to be a good spot to land for now.

Ian is in first grade, which has given us more challenges and joys in parenting. He’s doing extremely well academically and liked playing fall soccer, but he’s had a lot of behavior issues at school and has a hard time dealing with emotions in ways beyond what’s normal for his age. We and the school have been a little surprised by this, but we’re all looking at how to help and are starting to see some progress slowly. In the midst of that, it’s been more special to celebrate his achievements and invest in his interests. He loves art and draws all the time, he’s becoming a great reader and we often see him curled up with a book and he absorbs all information he can find on science-related topics. He still likes to build with anything he can create structures out of, explore our neighborhood and the city (he even has drinks he can order at several local coffee shops) and he was excited to have a speaking part in his school’s holiday musical.


Ian loves that Grandma B’s Christmas village is now at our house and on our mantle for the holidays.

While change seems to be the only constant, we’ve been glad for the support of friends and family, the space we’re finally settling into with two years now in our house and time to do things we enjoy. Kate is helping our neighborhood organization with communications and Jon’s playing in a friend’s band, Mr. Golden Sun. They just released an EP and have played a few shows this year and he’s played a little with his own band. We’ve been able to see artists like The Roots, Dave King and Pedro The Lion, share coffee and meals with friends and enjoy art around Kansas City.

We didn’t travel to Ohio for the first time this year, but the time here has been appreciated. We’re looking at new traditions to start as a family and ways to engage with our community. As we do, we hope to see you and wish you all the best for what 2019 may hold. The world is full of so much fear, anger and hate and we pray that, if nothing else, we’re a part of extending love, grace and peace in the coming year. We pray the same for you.

Much love from The Smiths!

(Smartphones and) self-worth.

It’s almost become some unwritten rule in Kansas City that stopping at intersections is when you check your phone. Remember when honking horns was some sort of provocative thing? Well, now many people seem thankful for the one person who looks up for a second to notice the light’s changed and taps the horn as a signal for people to stop looking down at their phones and hit the accelerator.

But this really isn’t about everyone else. You see, from 2012-2014, I commuted through Swope Park from Raytown to Waldo. My drive took me past The Lake of the Woods and down Blue River Road, two of my favorite places in Kansas City in the autumn. But when I would get to work, I noticed that I couldn’t recall much about my drive. (I imagine this sorta thing happens to most of us from time to time when we can’t remember if we stopped at a stop sign or if we paid for our food before leaving a restaurant.) Turns out, psychologists had a term for this phenomenon of blind spots in memory or self-perception.

While I was aware of that perceptual scotomas could occur, it still scared me to think that most of a 20-minute commute had practically vanished from my memory. I immediately started looking for a cause, and I noticed that I’d been texting friends on my drive. And, intoxicated with the newness of listening to music on my phone, I spent a lot of time shuffling between albums. Most of all, though, I realized that I was feeling compelled to respond immediately to every notification I received from any of my apps. My perceptual blind spot scared me. Sure, I was scared for the safety of others and myself as I drove to work. But I was also afraid that I was becoming a robot of sorts. I feel like detail and nuance are the enemy of laziness. And since I wasn’t noticing my surroundings, I started feeling a little less than human.

So I started occasionally interrupting my trip with a stop at the lake. Watching the sun rise over The Lake of the Woods quickly became one of my favorite ways to help me focus before particularly stressful days. Another way I sought to fight my problem was by putting down my phone while I drove. I would choose an album to listen to before I left the house and just let it play all the way to work. You know, like I used to before smartphones and seemingly infinite streaming possibilities.

Did these strategies work for me? Yes, immediately. Once again, I noticed the cars next to me at a stoplight, to the deer walking down a hill in Swope Park, and to that towering sycamore tree at the entrance of the driveway up to the Swope Park Memorial Golf Course.

But all change is a loss, right? While I regained awareness of my surroundings, my phone accumulated text messages and notifications during my short commute. (Sure, I remember the anxiety in college of racing home to see all the messages I’d missed on AOL Instant Messenger. But I think phones have obliterated our sense of context, and I feel a need to check it anytime and anywhere.) When I arrived at work or back at home, I immediately sifted through notifications and replied to text messages.

You see, this was never about using my phone; my problem was a little more disturbing. I had an insatiable desire for others to see me as responsive. And just like our belief that we can somehow keep up with all of our friends who moved away years ago, yet remain super close on Facebook, my responses to notifications on social media is frequently a charade. It’s not like I’m having a conversation with these people in a real location. Many times, my friends are just like me, commuting and not really in a safe place to engage in conversations. My immediate responses served to feed this vicious cycle of believing we’re in touch and that we’re having any semblance of a conversation.

So, back to my strategy of just putting down the phone. I guess you could say it worked out well. In fact, it wasn’t until I put my phone down that I learned about anything I’ve written. Much like many other seemingly-necessary things that we go without for Lent or for dietary reasons, I became aware of my reliance on my phone to give me some self worth. Worth and dignity that was already given to me when I was born.

And you know what, I also found that I listened to more albums in their entirety. A win-win for me.

Ch-ch-changes (The Smiths in 2017)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


We love exploring the city and food at places like YJ’s.

We hope you’ve had a good year. Our 2017 has been full of changes (we’ll now get David Bowie stuck in your head), and while that’s made for a crazy feeling much of the year, the changes have been good overall. We’ve been getting settled in our house, meeting new neighbors and learning new patterns and schedules in our new location. We love where we live and that it offers more chances to host friends and family, be involved in our church and explore the city.

The biggest changes are with Ian. He stopped going to daycare in June and stayed home with Jon for the summer before starting school. We are so thankful for Christina and her family opening their home to Ian the past few years. He loved being there and we are grateful for the safe, caring, educational space he enjoyed being a part of.

Ian started school in August. It’s been an adjustment (he falls asleep on the way home most days), but so far he seems to like school and going downtown with mom every day. His favorite classes right now are art and science. He’s very proud of making a comic book and other art projects and enjoys talking about what scientists can do. He also played soccer for the first time this fall. It’s a bit like controlled chaos at the kindergarten level, but we’ll probably try to do it a bit longer and see how much he wants to pursue it.

2017_8Another big change this fall was the loss of Grandma B. She was the only one of Kate’s grandparents that Ian’s been able to know, and the past several years we’ve stayed at her house when visiting Ohio. Our time with her has been sweet and she and Ian had a special bond. We’re glad we had time with her in July and got to make a few last memories. It was difficult to go back for her funeral over Labor Day weekend, but the time with family was important. We’re now seeing her home for the last time this holiday and are seeing a lot of changes to how we celebrate Christmas going forward as we plan on starting our own traditions in KC next year.

Jon went back to being a special ed co-teacher this fall after a year teaching math. He’s also in his second year leading a team of teachers. The adjustment has been fairly smooth and he’s been able to manage time paperwork a bit better this year. Kate got moved into a slightly different job within her office over the summer and is doing more with social media right now. The organization she went back to in 2015 continues to restructure, change and grow. We’re not sure where that will lead in the coming year, but are going with the flow and trying to adapt to each new development.


We’ve loved finding cool places to explore along the banks the of Mississippi River on trips to Ohio.

Jon has been playing in a few bands with friends this year, more than the past couple of years, and he’s still playing with the music team at our church. Kate has spent some time volunteering at Ian’s school, mostly through a reading buddy program, which has been fun. It’s also been a big music year in Kansas City. Time together has involved seeing Robert Glasper, Radiohead, Herbie Hancock, U2 and Slowdive. Jon even got to see Echo and the Bunnymen this summer.

We know 2018 will bring more changes, adjustments and new opportunities. It will also bring a chance to open up our home more as we immerse our family in our community in new ways. As so much in the world seems to be falling apart, we hope we can be a light and we look forward to having you in our lives over the next year.

Much love from the Smiths!



That time I rode in a van for seven hours with As I Lay Dying.

Fifteen years ago, I attended the Cornerstone Music Festival. My girlfriend (now wife) lived ten hours away, so we saw the festival as an opportunity to meet halfway and see our favorite bands.


The Choir’s guitarist, Derri Daugherty, and me at Cornerstone 2002

Looking back, this was a great idea. It would also be the only time Katy and I saw one another that summer. I saw longtime favorites Daniel Amos, The 77’s, The Choir, Rosie Thomas, Ester Drang, Embodyment, The Violet Burning, Luxury (twice), Fine China (also twice), Mars Ill, Rosie Thomas, Roadside Monument, Terry Taylor, and Mike Knott. I also talked to David Bazan about his new record, Control, while we watched Sixpence None the Richer.

For some reason, I decided to forgo the usual camping experience and sleep in my friend’s van. But then, as fate would have it, I saw some friends from Topeka on the dirt road near the entrance of the festival. (With 30,000 people funneling into the grounds of the festival, what were the odds???) My friends had a tent, and somehow I convinced them to let me sleep in it.

But, you see, my wife has always been smarter than me. She and a friend rented a dorm room a half-hour away at the Western Illinois University for the week of Cornerstone. Sure, they didn’t get the full Cornerstone experience. You know, the sulfur showers and really terrible hardcore bands playing makeshift stages in the middle of the night. But what they got was plumbing and beds and not being awaken by ants in their ears and in their underwear. Like I said, my wife is smart.

Now, I forget what all was going on, but my friend had to leave the festival a couple days early. Since he’s the one who drove, that meant I had to choose to cut short my only visit of the summer with Katy or find a ride home. I figured I could find somebody to ride with, so I told him that I would stay. I asked everyone from I knew from Kansas City or Lawrence, no one had room for me. So I was stuck.

On the final day of the festival, I was visiting Katy and her roommate in the dorm. The adjacent room housed like six or seven guys from a band for the week. Most of them were gathered a circle in the hallway, showing one another some yo-yo tricks. Because I needed to kill some time and wanted to do anything but walk out into the 100+ degree heat, I showed them a few of my own tricks. They seemed impressed, so we started talking about how their next show was in Kansas City. In exchange for a ride back to Raytown, I offered to buy their gas.

Once in the van, I learned these guys were in a band called As I Lay Dying. Their vocalist, Tim Lambesis, was excited to play me their music, but quickly moved on to all his favorite Jimmy Eat World songs. Then he played “Love Song” by The Cure for his girlfriend and announced it was their song. This started an exchange where the two of them went back-and-forth, dedicating songs from Disintegration to one another. It was cute and fun and killed lots of time. Seven hours flew by, and we were at my house. They couldn’t linger, as they needed to get to a house show that night.

In the years that followed, I occasionally got curious and googled the band. The vocalist married his girlfriend, and there were a few lineup changes. It was interesting to watch them grow into a popular metal band. The guys quickly got so popular that they could all command their own giant hotel rooms when touring Japan, instead of sharing one, dinky dorm room in Macomb, Illinois.

Then, in 2013, Tim was arrested after trying to hire an undercover officer to murder his wife. You know, the girl to whom he had dedicated “Love Song” while we were driving through northeast Missouri. After his arrest, he quickly became a laughing stock for his crime and as stories of his bodybuilding and steroid use surfaced. Yes, Tim he had made himself an easy target with his outrageous story that seemed straight out of a movie. He made tons of money in a metal band and was living up to some cartoonish, #merica tough guy caricature, so it was difficult to muster up any empathy for the dude.

But it seemed that Tim really liked his girlfriend and enjoyed his bandmates’ company. I’m guessing that, in 2002, he could have never envisioned treating them so poorly. I assume he didn’t decide overnight to kill his wife. His behavior was most likely the result of at least a decade of devastating choices. I doubt that he just woke up one morning with an extra $20,000 in his pocket to hire a hitman to end his marriage. And maybe I’m wrong; maybe he was a jerk all along. But one thing I do know is that I’ve watched well-intended friends ruin their lives, and I have done some pretty boneheaded things myself.

So I guess I could laugh at him, but that doesn’t feel right. When I see injustice and families being ripped apart, I have to choose to cherish my own family. One thing I know for sure is that I’ll never listen to the album, Disintegration, the same way again.

Why am I just now writing about this? The Roadside Monument reunion probably had something to do with it. I couldn’t attend their reunion show, but I started thinking about their “final” show at Cornerstone in 2002. Then I googled Tim Lambesis and discovered that he’s now out of prison and married the girl with whom he was having an affair. I guess the story doesn’t end well, and his family lives in fear. I can’t laugh at the guy, but I do pray for him.


2016: Moving


We’ve moved! Get in touch if you need our new address. We hope you’ll spend time here.

Merry Christmas from the Smiths!

We hope this finds you enjoying the season.

As you probably know by now, our big news for 2016 is that we finally moved. After 12 years in Raytown, and several years of occasionally thinking we might try to find a new home, we knew it was time for us to be in a different place. There are bittersweet things in any move. Our first house is connected to a lot of important moments, and Jon has wrestled with leaving the community he grew up in and wanted to support. But over time, it became obvious that we weren’t to be there forever.

We moved right before Thanksgiving and are looking forward to what the new house will bring. We’re in the heart of Kansas City in a lovely house that’s almost 100 years old. We’re a block from two different universities, not far from our church and near some of our favorite museums, restaurants and parks. We’re excited to open our home to people, and we have an amazing patio that should host lots of good music and great conversations. Our new location also gives us a chance to be more involved in things we care about in the city.

Ian turned 5 just before we moved. He’s still incredibly energetic, creative and funny. He loves to build with anything he possibly can, regularly makes up little songs and often has us laughing. His knowledge of everything is exploding. He is fascinated by animals and nature, how things work and the exploration of outer space. We’re enjoying each time we get to help him grasp more information. He’s also experiencing more at this age. He attended Royals baseball games for the first time this year, went to several Coterie Theater productions and saw the Kansas City Ballet’s Nutcracker for Christmas. It’s an exciting time for him and for us.


Our realtor, Carla Tays, gave us our new home in watercolor! We’re thankful for all her work and for the help her husband, Mickey, was in getting home repairs done.

Jon’s job is still going well. After years of special education work, he was asked to teach math as a regular teacher for the first time and is also leading a team of teachers in his building. It’s hard work and presents daily challenges, but he doesn’t shy away from that and he knows he has a lot of respect and support. Kate’s job is also going well. Her office and association went through more transitions this past year, but all for the good. She’s also in a position where she is valued and given chances to grow, and that’s been amazing.

Other highlights this year include Kate’s brother getting married and time with family, Jon getting to record and perform music with long-time friends and seeing incredible concerts with Bill Frisell, The Bad Plus Joshua Redman and Emmylou Harris with Buddy Miller, Steve Earle and Milk Carton Kids.

As we wrap up the year, we have to also acknowledge there’s a sense of heaviness. While we have much to be thankful for from 2016, it’s also held some difficult moments. It’s brought everything from friends moving to concern over national and international events. We are all in need of hope, peace, love, wisdom and grace. May celebrating the birth of Jesus be a time to remember that we are offered those things and can live lives sharing them with others.

Much love to you from us for a new year!

The Smiths in 2015

Season’s Greetings!


Ian loved going downtown to get a picture inside a giant inflatable snow globe!

2015 has been a good year, although not quite what we expected in some regards. Things have been busier than anticipated (hence the late arrival of Christmas cards and this letter), but we’ve enjoyed it.

Obviously, one of the most important things to talk about is Ian. He just turned four and never ceases to amaze with his energy and creativity. He is hilariously funny and has a great imagination. Ian loves singing and dancing for us (usually with songs he’s made up) and will build with anything he can get his hands on. He is still obsessed with books, cars, trucks and trains, and he absorbs everything around him from new words to what he sees outside. He loves going out to parks to run and explore and enjoys walking around the city, especially if it involves going to a coffee shop for donuts or to Union Station to see trains. He is also starting to develop friendships, and it’s really fun to see him get excited about time with certain peers. Ian is in a neat daycare situation, and we appreciate the care he receives and the many chances to learn and grow there over the past couple of years. Additionally, it is nice for him to attend daycare in a home-like setting in which to thrive while his parents work.


Ian got his first visit with Santa this year.

The big news, for those who don’t already know, is Kate’s job change. She left a job in June and returned to the professional membership association she had been at for six years. The nonprofit she was at for nine months was a good learning experience, but was not the great fit she anticipated from her interviews. The chance to go back to her old office, which has made a number of improvements, was a very unexpected yet exciting opportunity. She is now co-leading the membership department under a new executive director and anticipates amazing things to come for the organization. The last six months have been hectic, but long term, this job should be more family-friendly for us, which we appreciate.

A few months after changing jobs, Kate received a volunteer award from the Kansas City Society for Association Executives for helping update its branding with a new logo and website. Additionally, she was recently given the chance to move on from that and join ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership with her new position. She looks forward to attending its national events and diving in to resources for professional growth.


We enjoy time at Crown Center, especially during the holiday season.

Speaking of jobs, Jon is in his second year teaching special education at a nearby freshman center. Overall, it has gone really well. He does a lot of co-teaching as a special ed teacher in a regular classroom environment, likes many of his co-workers and administrators and enjoys being in a district making some positive changes. Since being hired last year, he has experienced a level of respect not seen in most of his other jobs. The kids know and can articulate that he cares about them. It is often difficult and time-consuming work, but he has the support of the other staff and likes making a difference for the students.


Ian made sure we’re ready for snow, though it hasn’t come yet.

A highlight of the year was Ian and Jon taking a trip to Indiana with Jon’s dad during spring break in March. It was the first time the three of them have traveled together, and the first time in many years that Jon and his dad have returned to where they were born. The trip meant a lot to them as they have few ties to there anymore, and it’s not a trip that will happen often. We also visited Ohio in July and drove down to see Kate’s great aunt, Jo, in Kentucky. It was a special trip, as she passed away a few months ago. Jo was like another grandmother to Kat, since her Mamaw Pearl (Jo’s sister) died when Kate was 10. We’re glad that she and Ian got to spend time together.


A family selfie with a few hundred thousand friends at the Royals Victory Parade.

We’ve managed to keep up with a few interests. Jon continues to play music with friends and with the church worship team. Kate has enjoyed a few good book studies with women from our church and time with friends. Thanks to a fantastic babysitter who is usually available, Jon and Kate have been able to attend amazing concerts (Wilco, Kraftwerk and Stevie Wonder were the big ones) and performing arts events (mostly the Harriman-Jewell Series and one KC Rep production). We also joined with much of Kansas City in celebrating the Royals World Series win this year!

We hope you all had a wonderful year and a Merry Christmas! We look forward to a new year and new opportunities for our family to interact with yours.

Much love from the Smiths!


IMG_20141115_205948Merry Christmas!

We hope this finds you doing well and enjoying the holidays. We were late getting our cards in the mail, so for those who are reading this after Christmas, we wish you a Happy New Year.

We’ll cut to the chase and fill you in on the craziness of our lives lately. At the end of the summer, we both got new jobs! While we both sporadically searched for new jobs, we never expected to have two positions open up for us within a few weeks of each other. Jon is now working as a teacher in a nearby school district, his first job as a public school teacher after 11 years in alternative education settings. Kate got a job with a co-ed fraternity that focuses on college students doing community service and she is in charge of all of their print and digital communications. In the short term, this means lots of change and long hours. In the long term, it should mean more time at home and for others.

Jon’s job is close to home and a little less stressful than his past experiences. He’s in special education and spends part of the day co-teaching in regular classes and part of the day teaching classes for kids who are behind and need extra help. Kate’s job is also closer to where we live, and after January it should mean an easy schedule and more time at home. As we both transition, though, there’s a lot to learn and get done. Jon has had a number of IEPs to write and has been appointed to a district safety committee. Kate has to be a part of a national convention the last week of the year and learning a new job and a major event at the same time has meant extra hours with work going into holidays. We’re ready for 2015 and a time when schedules start to settle down and get to a new, better normal than what we’ve had for the last few years.

Spiderman enjoys a donut!

Spiderman enjoys a donut!

Most of our time aside from work is spent with Ian. He’s now 3 and is full of energy and curiosity. His vocabulary grows every day, he is a keen observer of everything, he loves music and he enjoys running around outdoors and exploring Kansas City. We have a lot of fun visiting coffee shops, art museums, parks and we spend plenty of time at Union Station seeing trains. We also enjoy time at home putting together train track, playing with cars, dancing to records and watching classic cartoons.

Other than trying to keep up with Ian and adjust to new jobs, we’ve been trying to get a bit more involved with our church, invest in some professional opportunities and we occasionally get out to enjoy the amazing arts experiences available in Kansas City. We’re excited to see what 2015 holds as we have more time available to visit with friends and be involved in our community.

Peace and love to you all,

Jon, Kate and Ian Smith

Interviewing to the Glory of God.

After eleven years in education, I am about to begin my first as a teacher in a public school. Until now, I have taught in alternative placements and worked as a paraprofessional. I never landed a teaching job in this field, despite assurances that it would have a shortage of workers. I’m not complaining. I may have dealt with some feelings of entitlement along the way, but I’m not complaining.

I have applied and interviewed for countless jobs in these eleven years since graduating from college. No matter how much practice I gain with interviewing, I always feel uncomfortable with the process. I hate bragging about myself, but it seems like that’s all a person is expected to do in interviews. Because the Bible instructs us to do nothing out of selfish ambition, I don’t think I need another how-to article on making good impressions to calm my nerves. 

Growing up in church, I heard much teaching about working hard at a job, as if one was working for God that was based on Colossians 3. I’ve also sat through many sermons on 1 Corinthians 10:31, in which believers are instructed to do everything for the glory of God. If I am to take these scriptures seriously, then what would it look like for me to interview for the glory of God? How does that change my approach to the entire job hunt? I’m no theologian, but I’ve found a few things to be helpful.

  • Much like dating is to marriage, so is an interview to a job.  Sure, it’s easy to get caught up in emotions on dates, but hopefully we don’t set out to deceive a significant other. Much like these first baby steps in relationships, interviews shouldn’t be seen as an opportunity to misrepresent oneself or to mislead.
  • If God is orchestrating everything in my life, if Jesus is upholding the universe by the word of His power and if Jesus is praying for us, I can rest easy the night before and on the drive to the interview.  Obviously, I need to take the process seriously, but I can’t trust that landing a job is simply a result of my well-constructed answers, confident body language or my necktie’s double-Windsor knot.
  • When considering how to interview to the glory of God, I think it’s also important to see the process from the other side of the table. It’s maddening to realize just how much time, money and energy school districts spend with staff turnover. I feel it’s the best use of the interviewer’s time and the community’s resources to hire the best candidate for the job the first time. If I am to take Paul’s exhortations the Philippians seriously and think of others as more important than myself, I must value my interviewers’ time and not be fake.

I know that I haven’t offered a prescriptive step-by-step process, nor have I presented some systematic theology of job-hunting. I am, however, sharing lessons I have learned from my feeble attempts to be obedient to God’s word. I need to be humble, even in a situation like an interview that seems to be all about me and my own career path. Regardless of an interview’s outcome and no matter how well I have prepared myself, I must remember that I am still God’s son.