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.

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.

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!


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.


Our look at 2013

Greetings from the Smiths!

We hope those of you reading this are doing well and enjoying the holidays.

Ian's first hotel stay was in Ashland, KY for his great grandpa's funeral. It was a sad time, but he brought a lot of joy to the weekend.

Ian’s first hotel stay was in Ashland, KY for his great grandpa’s funeral. It was a sad time, but he brought a lot of joy to the weekend.

2013 has been a crazy year for us, but a fun one, too. It has mostly been filled with work and time with family. Here’s an overview of what we’ve been up to in 2013 …

Ian is really the highlight of our year. He’s moved fully into being a little boy and no longer seems babyish to us. He talks all the time and acquires new words every day. He identifies letters, numbers and sometimes colors. He’s obsessed with cars, trucks, trains, music, books and monkeys (especially his sock monkeys and Curious George). Ian began to thoroughly explore outdoors this year, and he notices everything. We love seeing him grow and do new things. He’s very energetic, playful and outgoing, and is usually a lot to keep up with, but we are having a blast as his parents. As you’ll read below, we’ve really focused on time with Ian and close family when not at work.

Kate’s Papaw Bob passed away at the beginning of the year. He was very special to us. He’d lived with Alzheimer’s for a few years, and it had been a couple of years since we’d been able to visit him (he was living in San Fransisco, CA), so his unexpected death was difficult to process. We made a quick trip to Ashland, KY, for the funeral. It was hectic, since we’d just been in Ohio for Christmas, but we had family time with some people we rarely see, many of whom got to meet Ian for the first time. Gathering for funerals is never ideal, but it was a wonderful to be with everyone. We enjoyed repeating Pop’s infamous stories and tales of his generosity and love of family. Kate hopes to someday get things about him in writing. In March, we had to put our dog, Einstein, to sleep, so the first part of the year was emotionally rough.

Jon and Ian checked out the cool games in the Sub Shop in Columbia, MO while on our way to see a cousin's baseball game.

Jon and Ian checked out the cool games in the Sub Shop in Columbia, MO while on our way to see a cousin’s baseball game.

We took Ian to his first baseball game in March. Kate’s cousin played for the University of San Fransisco and had a series of games at the University of Missouri. We drove a couple hours to see him play and meet up with lots of family for a day. It was really fun and meant a lot, since we’d all just been together a couple of months before for Papaw’s funeral. Kate’s parents then came back to Kansas City to visit for a week and we enjoyed some additional time with them.

Jon’s teaching job kept him quite busy through the winter and spring, and continues to do so now. We are very grateful he finally got back into teaching last year and that he is able to do well with students who have a variety of special needs. We don’t want to make it seem easy, because it’s not. He puts in long hours and deals with some very stressful and delicate situations. That said, he’s able to show care and respect to kids that most people don’t want to deal with, and his coworkers see his efforts and are very supportive. He works with some great people and they all try to keep each other from going too crazy or getting burnt out.

We spent a lot of time at KC parks this year. It's been awesome to explore them as a family.

We spent a lot of time at KC parks this year. It’s been awesome to explore them as a family.

Kate’s job at a professional membership association is going well and she had her five-year anniversary with them in June. Her responsibilities continue to grow and evolve. She enjoys the challenge, but it makes for some hectic days. She now handles the association’s social media and does more with the membership department communications and marketing items. She has started getting involved in a local society for association professionals and is excited about opportunities that may come there. One nice aspect of the job is that Kate gets a lot of time off, so we’ve been able to spend time with her family when we’ve wanted to and she’s had days home with Ian.

We made a trip to Ohio in July to see Kate’s family. We didn’t fill our time with too many things to do and people to see, keeping it pretty low key and relaxing, which was needed. We let Ian really explore outside and have a great time with grandparents. He even went to Young’s Dairy for the first time. We also took a short trip over Labor Day weekend to north central Arkansas. Some friends from KC have moved south, and we spent a couple of days wandering through small towns and enjoying the Ozark scenery while hanging out with them. Jon had two breaks around teaching summer school, so he spent a lot of time with Ian before school started (read about it here).

It's amazing to see Ian becoming a little boy. We love this new phase of parenthood where we help him explore the world.

It’s amazing to see Ian becoming a little boy. We love this new phase of parenthood where we help him explore the world.

In November, we had Ian’s second birthday and our 10th wedding anniversary. Jon’s dad and step-mom helped Ian celebrate by treating him to his first overnight stay with grandparents. We appreciated their gift of watching Ian for two days so that we could celebrate our anniversary for a weekend. Having two days to ourselves was a much needed chance to slow down for a minute and enjoy being a couple. We stayed at an awesome KC B&B, ate at great new restaurants, enjoyed the art museum and getting coffee without a toddler in tow, listened to live jazz and got reacquainted with what grown ups do in our city. It was wonderful.

The end of the year has been a blur. Jon’s had a huge amount of work on nights and weekends, Kate’s job has been on overdrive, we’ve been trying to do holidays and see family and it has been a bit insane. We both have quite a bit of time off for Christmas and New Year’s and are enjoying the break and time with family and friends. We’re hoping to figure out more time with people in 2014. Days are flying by and we feel like we’ve not grown friendships as we’d like. If you are like us and feel the pace of life taking over, we hope you’ll also take a moment to reflect on what is most important and adjust your time accordingly.

Ian loves music and playing the organ (and any other thing that makes noise).

Ian loves music and playing the organ (and any other thing that makes noise).

Much love to you from Jon, Kate and Ian!

P.S. – Jon’s music this year has been mostly at church, not with a rock band. If you’re interested, there are some recordings online of songs written this year by musicians at the church. This particular project was related to communion. Many of the songs use old texts set to new music and some are all original material . The recordings are from church services and are wonderful to listen to. Jon’s contribution is here.

Summer Break 2013

blue springs lake

Ian, running around Blue Springs Lake.

After three long years of underemployment, I am extremely thankful for my current job. Because of this, it occasionally feels wrong to complain or just be honest with stress levels. (I’m no workaholic, but I don’t want to be whiny, either.)  I have paperwork of two regular education teachers. I have students from multiple grade levels in the same classroom. I have to be a quasi-social worker and parent to my students. I get punched in the face…you get the picture.  It took me a while to realize that, while a learning curve that comes with any new job is natural, it’s okay to be tired. Fortunately for me, the joys of summer couldn’t have been more of a contrast to the stress of the school year.

Dinner at Morgan Street Brewery in St. Louis, en route to visit family in Dayton.

Dinner at Morgan Street Brewery in St. Louis, en route to visit family in Dayton.

We finished summer school on July 11, and my dad encouraged me to treat each day with my son “like a Saturday.” I took this to heart and found a daily adventure for Ian.  I did something I can never do during the school year and  occasionally met my wife for lunch.  I attended about a zillion concerts with friends. I helped a friend move. We traveled to Dayton with my brother-in-law. I reconnected with an old friend. I took some wonderful naps. I packed as much into each day as possible because I know that life will get crazy in the fall.

Tomorrow starts my second year at Gillis, and I’m happy to work with such a supportive staff. We’re all in the same boat; we all have crazy jobs. Hopefully they will return as refreshed as me.


Why I rarely share political views on social networks.

politicsEvery month, some hot-button political issue on Facebook and Twitter goads me.  I rarely respond, comment or share, but it’s not for lack of opinions on the matters.

See, I travel in far too many, wildly different social circles.  (I think this is a good thing.  I enjoy being challenged by others’ viewpoints.)  Being connected to everyone is an efficient means to share news and pictures of my family, but posts or tweets are a poor way to foster political conversation.  Nuance in a two-party system isn’t prized, and comments are typically viewed simply as either good or bad.  I’ve seen too many people throw zingers at others they don’t even know while commenting on a Facebook post.  I’d like to think my own friends wouldn’t stoop to that level, but I don’t want to needlessly set them up, either.

Most political conversations reveal a source of hope for our country that can’t easily be summed up in brief comments or jabs.  Some believe the most important thing is to get everyone started on the same, level footing.  Some think less government will enable people to be more charitable.  Most seem convinced that our country’s in a mess and that we’re spiraling into chaos.  While things certainly are crazy, I believe that God is in control and that Jesus upholds everything by the word of His power.  It grieves me to see the paranoia and fear slung around by both political parties.  In the end, it’s not up to us to fix humanity, but rather to be obedient to God’s call on our lives.

While my worst arguments and poor judgement in posts/tweets will not stop the work of the Holy Ghost, I must be mindful of ways that I “muddy up the water” of Jesus’ gospel message.  If His transforming work in my life is the most important thing I want you to hear, then I am happy to avoid distracting conversations in social networks.  Jesus never specifically addressed laissez faire economics or public education, so I don’t want my imperfect thoughts about issues to trip up anyone in their understanding of God’s love (about which He often spoke).

I’m not just taking a moral high ground here.  I have worked for years in a field reliant on public funding and governed by many state and federal laws, so I have plenty of opinions on almost everything.  Just ask me, and I’d love to talk.  Offline.