Ruth Chou Simons
1. You are a wife, mom, business owner, artist, writer, and photographer—you wear so many hats in your day to day life! What does a typical day look like for you and your family?
It looks different from day to day and even month to month, but in my current season, we are juggling some new roles as my husband stepped away from his position as headmaster of a classical school last year and is now homeschooling our boys primarily. Our family spends our early mornings and evenings altogether reading, gathering for family devotions and meetings, and running errands together. Home is where all 8 of us live and do school, and where I run my business, paint, and write.
It’s busy and we have our part-time employees in our home several days a week with both shoppe help and help to me as a mom. I simply don’t juggle it all on my own!
This has been an unprecedented season as I’ve grown my business and completed the work on my first book. We really came together as a family to decide how we would grow with these new opportunities while preserving our family culture and priorities.
I start every morning snuggling with the youngest two, chatting about the day and listening to audio Bible. After breakfast, I usually work for several hours in the morning in meetings or taking care of emails, while the boys start the daily lessons with my husband. (My oldest is on campus at a community college as a dually enrolled high school student.) We come together for lunch, piano lessons, and sometimes a few midday errands. My afternoons are filled with painting, writing, and conferring with my staff. When deadlines aren’t pressing, my favorite way to spend an afternoon is to take the boys to the library or to take my time with dinner prep. Prepping in the kitchen is truly one of my favorite contexts for a good heart to heart.
2. As a mother to six boys (!), how do you talk to your own kids about your creative work and using your gifts?
We talk a lot about using whatever gifts you have for the glory of God. Each of my boys are gifted differently, and I hope to model for them daily, that using our gifts has to do first with our hearts and less with our talents. Anyone can create something that catches people’s attention, but not everything created will tell the story of a faithful God in our lives. That story can be told in explicit and subtle ways ... but they know that that’s what my work is about: pointing to the good news of Christ with my brush and my words.
3. You’ve written before about seasons of motherhood, and how those different seasons require different things from us. In your most full seasons of mothering, how have you still managed to create?
GraceLaced Shoppe was born out of a season when I painted with a baby on my lap and a toddler napping away in the afternoons. I wasn't trying to build a business or to work professionally as an artist; I simply saw things more clearly when I took some time to paint and write. Sometimes, those creative moments came in the evenings after the boys’ bedtimes, and in a different season as a busy pastor’s wife, I created but once a month at a ladies’ get together. It won’t look the same in every season of motherhood, but the key is to make time in increments, no matter how small.
4. How are you seeing the fruit of your creative work blooming now from seeds that you planted long ago?
I never imagined that my creative gifts would turn into the career that it is now. My husband Troy likes to say that though the shoppe and my platform really took off in the last three years, it has been two decades in the making. The seeds sown years ago didn't look like making money, building a platform, or growing a business; it really looked more like journaling, sketching, creating meaningful gifts for loved ones. It looked like living a creative life for the joy of it.
5. What inspires you: as a wife, mom, and artist?
I am most inspired by nature—the beauty of God’s handiwork all around us—and my own children’s awe of it. So many paintings, writings, and teachable moments with my kids come out of remembering God’s word and his faithfulness in the midst of seeing His love for us displayed in flora, fields, and mountaintops.
6. What or who do you read to help inspire your work? What other resources do you recommend to fellow creatives?
I sometimes find the most inspiring resources in things that aren’t meant to encourage me to paint or write better. Sometimes the most helpful thing is to think better … which ultimately leads to more fruitful creating.
I read a lot of Charles H. Spurgeon primarily in morning and evening. His imagery in expressing the theological concepts and spiritual formation is unparalleled. I also really enjoy reading and soaking up a good cookbook. I love how artists that create with other mediums (like culinary ingredients!) can help us see our own with new perspective.
7. Do you have a scripture, word or mantra that guides your work?
Mantra: You don’t have to be blooming to be growing.
Verses: Romans 11:36 - For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. And Ephesians 3:20-21 - Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.
8. How do motherhood and creative work complement one another?
As I type these words, I have two young boys next to me, both drawing. Unless I am writing to meet a deadline and need to concentrate, I love to work and create in their presence. I make it a point to share the words I write on instagram, the meaning behind the paintings I paint, and why I spend time on my computer. I want the boys to see me use my gifts. I often say that motherhood is sanctifying because it requires us to persevere even when we don’t feel “good” at our job, allowing the Lord to use our weaknesses to transform us by grace. My work as an artist, writer, and businesswoman is similarly sanctifying…bringing about many opportunities to submit to the Lord’s refining and purpose to make more more holy by fire. They need to see both.
9. In what ways do you find inspiration? What do you do when you’re feeling dry creatively?
A few things always breathe new life into my work when I feel dry creatively:
Being outside, in the wild, on a mountain, or at the edge of the ocean.
Listening to Jon Foreman’s music.
Playing with art, for the fun of it.
Take time off and stop feeding the pressure to produce.
10. If you could tell moms who long to create as they raise little ones a word of advice, what would it be?
Nothing in the mundane is wasted. Living well is the ultimate source of creating well. If this season calls you to motherhood and not much else energy-wise, then serve and love well. Your energy spent on what feels unseen is not wasted. Your season to bloom will come in due season, and it may look different—and more wonderful—than you can imagine.