Inspire: Women Who Create | Ruth Simons Interview

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I'm not sure where I first discovered Ruth Simon's blog, Gracelaced. But I quickly started following her. I found Ruth inspiring since she was a homeschool mom like myself and also a writer and artist. I'm always interested to see how other women work from home, are inspired creatively, and seek to continue using their talents. After I started following Ruth, she ended up opening a shop to sell her artwork, which has exploded over the past year. I'm excited to introduce my readers to this inspiring woman!

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Tell us a little bit about you, your family, and what a normal day looks like for you?

I’m a Chinese-American mother of 6 boys (ages 1-12) and a wife to Troy for almost 17 years. My husband Troy was a preaching pastor for 7 years at a church we planted, but now serves as the headmaster to a Classical Christian school we started here in New Mexico that employs a part time home classroom schedule. That means, I homeschool 4 of my boys every other day at home, and run my blog and art business at GraceLaced.com on the days they are at school. Neither of us ever expected to do such big “start-ups” with our lives, but we are so grateful that God chooses to do more than we think we are able to do on our own.

Did you study art in college or are you self-taught? Did you envision pursuing a career in art?

I was a typical Chinese over-achieving academe, and pursued a degree in biochemistry with scholarships and grants, but during my second year of college, the Lord pursued my heart in ways deep ways, that ultimately led me to finish out my university studies with a fine arts degree. Back then, before blogs and social media...a career in art didn’t seem practical or faith and family friendly. So, no, I didn’t plan to pursue a career. I was just studying what I knew I loved.

What brought about the decision to open your shoppe?

I had been writing at the blog (gracelaced.com) for 6 years at the time, and having recently joined Instagram, found a social media outlet that favored my love for words and images. In October of 2013, I joined in The Nester’s 30 days challenge to write on any topic for 30 days. I chose a theme “Drawing Close,” in which I would write and draw something for 30 days. My desire was to challenge myself to rediscover my love for art, and to include it in my blogging. The response was so supportive, and the requests to purchase artwork was so great, that I decided to open a shop to try it out. I opened my GraceLaced Shoppe the following month, with $300 worth of inventory. The rest, as they say, is history.

How do you carve out time for your artwork in the midst of life with six boys and homeschooling? Do you fit it in around the edges of your day, or do you have set times where you sit down and work?

When I first started, I painted during naptimes and often during lunch breaks. But, as the demands of the shoppe increased, orders overwhelmed what I could handle on my own, and custom order paintings began to pile up, I knew I needed to create better boundaries and more specific time for work.

I now paint in the evenings and afternoons during naptimes on days when the older boys are at school, and do minimal work on days when I’m homeschooling. As of 2015, I’ve hired the first part-time help I’ve ever had in 13 years of mothering. :) It was a tough decision, but as the shoppe grew, I knew it was necessary for me to manage my time well, steward the opportunity with discernment, and to find help in things that I can hire for.

Approximately how many pieces are you creating a week right now?

In original art, I paint an average of 2 a week for commissions. I’m always developing new artwork for the shoppe, but I’m also learning to paint “for fun” and to practice the art...for the process.

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Your artwork is often inspired by Scripture. Do you have a specific mission in mind for your artwork? What takeaway do you hope someone gets from purchasing a Ruth Simons print or custom order?

You know, I didn’t actually begin with a particular desire to do scripture art, but I think my artwork just flows out of whatever the Lord is teaching me, and so, as I write, read, and work through the things that I desire to grow in...the artwork featuring scripture just flows out. I do offer many giclees, prints, and original paintings that don’t necessarily speak explicitly of God’s word; however, my desire remains the same: I want to inspire others to observe God’s faithful, creative, and merciful provision in his creation. Such faithfulness can be seen in the soft petal of a fading flower, as well as a sunset. I pray those who own my artwork find a reminder of God’s glory through the strokes, colors, and words scripted...that his praise would be quick on their lips on account of a beautiful reminder.

What encouragement do you have for other women who desire to use their artistic gifts in a meaningful way but have yet to find an outlet?

That is such a good question. I wrote something about this very thing recently “Creatives: 4 Things To Consider As You Pursue A Dream.”

But, I also like to tell those who are still waiting to see how the Lord will lead:

Despite how much I wanted “to do something” with my gifts and talents 10 years ago, I don’t think I would’ve been prepared like I am now. The Lord had me focus on being a mother, ministering from my kitchen table, and supporting my husband...that I might have the content, the wisdom, and the inspiration from which to create. Starting a business or creating art simply to succeed, grow financially, or keep up with peers is the most stifling thing to creativity. As artists, we simply cannot create anything authentic if we are not truly living, reading, growing, and becoming. My encouragement to all who desire to take their artistic dreams, and fly...is to joyfully walk first with the Lord, and treasure that above all else. Then, when the affirmation and acknowledgement of your work one day comes, you will not be so lured by the opinions of others, but the applause of One.

Thank you, Ruth, for taking the time to be interviewed! I hope it will be an encouragement to others! 

Find Ruth online at the following online spaces: Gracelaced Blog Gracelaced Shoppe Pinterest Instagram Facebook

Change Together or Grow Apart | Guest Post by Ashleigh Slater

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Ashleigh Slater is the first to be featured in the new series, "Inspire: Women Who Create." Ashleigh is a writer, editor, and homeschooling mama to four. I came across Ashleigh's personal blog during my own early blogging days sometime back in 2005. Currently, I work with her in a more professional capacity writing for the website she created: Ungrind. We even got to meet in real life once when she visited Baltimore for a conference!

Ashleigh writes about marriage with practical wisdom and humor in her new book, Team Us: Marriage Together. Check out my full review here. Today, she is writing about how a marriage relationship is always evolving and we can choose to either grow together or apart.

Before sharing her guest post today, I had this question for her:

As a busy home educating mom of four, how do you make time to consistently work from home as a writer?

Instituting quiet time almost every afternoon has been one of the keys for me to consistently working from home as a writer.  My kid don’t nap anymore (my three-year-old recently gave it up), so it’s a time of quiet in their rooms where they play or read or listen to “Adventures in Odyssey.” Normally, it lasts about two hours. This is when I can really focus intensely on writing or blogging or the work on my plate. After quiet time, if I’m needing more work time, the kids can do crafts or play or maybe watch a movie. I’m readily available to them, but still working. If I have a lot of projects or didn’t get as much done as I hoped, then I may work after the kids’ bedtime a bit before Ted and I spend time together.  I actually wrote a blog post on this subject recently and shared a few other things I do to balance kids and work. Check it out here: http://ashleighslater.com/4-proven-ways-balance-kids-home-work/

Let's welcome Ashleigh as she writes about changing together or growing apart in marriage.

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The Ted I’m married to today isn’t the same Ted I married almost 12 years ago.

Sure, he has the same blue eyes. The same crazy hair worthy of his middle name Wolfgang. Yes, he still often stuns people with his dry, witty sense of humor. And, all these years later, his passion for soy sauce and politics (not necessarily in that order) remains rock solid.

But he’s also changed over the years.

He now eats leftovers instead of cereal for breakfast. He gets seriously excited to watch obscure black-and-white films like Crisis (all you Cary Grant fans out there may know that one). And, best of all, he now understands why adults go to Disney World … without their children. Although that one’s easier said than done.

The thing is, he’ll tell you the same thing about me. The Ashleigh he’s married to today isn’t the same Ashleigh he married almost 12 years ago. I’ve changed too.

Fortunately, our changes have brought us closer together. They’ve resulted in more points of connection. More shared interests. More mutual dreams. But I know that’s not always the case for couples.

I’d venture to guess that you and your husband have also changed since that day you promised “I do.” Because the reality is that none of us is static. So as long as we’re living, we all change. Without exception. (God, the Changeless One, is the only one who’s the same yesterday, today, and forever.) Which means none of our relationships is static. They change too. Including our marriages.

So if change is inevitable, how can we better embrace it in our husbands and ultimately in our marriages?

I believe by being intentional to change together. Side by side. Hand in hand. Over the years, that’s what Ted and I have sought to do.

This doesn’t mean you’ll both change in exactly all of the same ways. Ted and I haven’t. Want an example? When it comes to music, he didn’t like dub step or scream-o when we got married. These days, he plays both at high volumes. Me? I tolerate them because I love him. (Except when our kids are winding down for bed. Then, not so much.)

Yep, almost twelve years later, we’re still two different people with two different personalities. Because the truth is, marriage wouldn’t be quite as much fun (or perhaps as challenging at times either) if we were identical; if our personalities merged. But what changing, together, does mean is there’ll be less of a chance we’ll wake up one morning and wonder how we became strangers.

What’s one way you and your husband can be intentional to change together?

An easy place to start is by seeking out and developing new common interests. New things you love to do together. By taking the time to literally share in the other’s “joy” by stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something they like. Sushi, classic movies, camping, or perhaps even Dragon Con. You might just discover you like it too. Who knew?

I predict that 12 years from now, Ted won’t be the same Ted he is today. And I won’t be the same Ashleigh. Once again, we’ll have changed. But my hope is that we’ll have continued to change together. Side by side and hand in hand. A chapter or two later, our characters will change, the plot will develop, but we’ll still be co-starring in it together.

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Ashleigh Slater is the author of the book, Team Us: Marriage Togetherfrom Moody Publishers. As the founder and editor of the webzine Ungrind and a regular contributor at several popular blogs and websites, she unites the power of a good story with biblical truth and practical application to encourage readers. She has 20 years of writing experience and a master’s degree in communication. Ashleigh and her husband, Ted, have been married for twelve years. They have four daughters and reside in Atlanta, Georgia. To learn more, visit AshleighSlater.com.

Inspire: Women Who Create

InspireLogoBack in December of 2014, as my due date neared, I had the thought to ask some of my favorite bloggers and writers to guest post on the blog for me. I knew I'd  be busy adjusting to a newborn and would lack time to post new content. As it turned out, baby Ava came a little earlier than expected and I didn't get around to asking and organizing that many guest posts for the month of January after all. However, out of that idea grew a new concept. An idea for a year-long series that would be published approximately monthly. It would feature some of my favorite writers, artists, photographers, crafters, and small business owners. In short, it would feature women who create.

Dictionary.com defines the word "create" in part as something evolving "from one's own thought or imagination, as a work of art or an invention." 

Through blogging and Instagram I've met women who live creative and inspiring lives. Women who have opened small businesses based on their craft skills, product, art, or photography. Women who've published books. Women who've created conferences and community. Women who publish literary journals and host online workshops or mentoring relationships. All of these examples encompass various forms of creativity. And I find it very inspiring to watch women tap into their talents and do what they love and be successful.

And so I offer you the series, "Inspire: Women Who Create."

Tomorrow I'll be introducing our first guest, so check back to find out who is featured and be inspired!