Details matter to Ruth Chou Simons, an artist, author and founder of lifestyle brand GraceLaced Co. Ruth pays attention to subtleties like the curve of a hummingbird’s wings and the color gradient in an autumn leaf, but she doesn’t focus on these details just so she can paint them accurately; she sees a deeper significance in nature.“I look out my window and see God’s handiwork,” Ruth explains, “and when I do, I’m reminded that nothing is here on accident.”
“[God] could have made everything sound the same, smell the same and look the same, but he didn’t,” Ruth marveled. “He chose to speak his love into our lives through these details.”
That’s why Ruth believes it’s worth the time to slow down and notice God’s hand in creation: “If you hold a flower and you’re just grabbing it, putting it in a vase and walking away, you’re missing so much. … When you really study it, it opens up a whole new world.”
Whether she’s painting delicate petals, writing a devotional or serving a meal, Ruth sees her talents as reflections of God’s creativity. And all people were made by him to be creative in their own ways. “We’re all uniquely gifted to creatively tell the story of who God is,” she said. “I have six boys and I realize they’re all wired differently, but they’re all creative and uniquely gifted to tell the story of redemption in and through their own lives.”
Studying God’s creativity not only inspires Ruth but also reminds her that people can’t produce anything that could rival his artistry: “There are exquisite nuances of creation that make us feel small and help us realize how great God is.”
God’s Presence in Difficulty
Ruth, her husband Troy and their boys spend most of their days pouring their creativity and love of nature into homeschooling and running GraceLaced. While their life together is beautiful, Ruth acknowledged that recent isolation and unexpected changes have caused some stress for their family.
“My oldest was supposed to be studying abroad this year,” Ruth shared, adding that her son had been preparing for the trip for months before it was canceled. Troy and Ruth decided to work with their kids through disappointment, as well as the extra relational friction of a hard season, in the light of Scripture.
“Suffering, trials, challenges and disappointments — [they’re] actually the norm, not the exception,” Ruth pointed out. “If we read Scripture, we see that God calls [people] to apply their faith right where they are. … [Troy and I] have chosen to make sure that our kids don’t think of the gospel, the Bible and all that is offered through Christ as a Sunday-only thing.”
Instead, Ruth and Troy regularly talk with their boys about God’s presence in the middle of difficult situations: “These are normal, everyday moments in which we can demonstrate to our kids we don’t have all the answers, but [that] we’re going to apply the gospel. We’re going to say, ‘What do we know about what it is to be on earth and what it is to hope in heaven? How do we take what we know from God’s Word and actually apply it right now?’”
Ruth believes that applying biblical truth to everyday situations shapes families — she and Troy even wrote a book about it! But Ruth also admits that teaching these truths to your children isn’t a formula you can follow. She recognizes that parents can’t give kids the tools to cope with hardships and grow spiritually by simply reading a book and doing devotions together. Ruth and Troy have learned to prioritize their own time in God’s Word before showing their kids how to develop spiritually healthy rhythms. “There’s no modeling anything for our children if it’s not ours first,” she emphasized.
God’s Goodness in the Mess
During a conference in early 2020, Ruth had a chance to see God’s goodness and presence clearly demonstrated when her plans went awry in front of almost a million viewers. Ruth had been asked to paint while she taught on stage, but the paints had to sit backstage for several hours before her session. Ruth remembered: “We were so afraid [the paints] would dry out that we added too much non-drying medium. By the time I got onstage the paints didn’t behave the way I expected them to. In God’s kindness, things didn’t go according to [my] plan.”
She’d planned to illustrate the promise in Romans 8:24-28: “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV).
But despite her best efforts, her artwork didn’t transform into the beautiful scene she envisioned. “My painting looked kind of like my 5-year-old did it. I was mortified.”
As Ruth struggled with her paints on stage, she realized that her messy creation perfectly illustrated the point she was trying to make: God is with us, working even in our messes, and his presence is the best gift he offers. “If God is your good, then all things work together for good because you have him,” she explained. “God glorified himself through that [experience] and made it not about me, my skill or the completed work. He made it about his process in and through us.”
Christ’s Authority Over Everything
During the months following the conference, God continued teaching Ruth about humility while she wrote “Truthfilled”, a 7-week study of the book of Colossians. Like many women, Ruth has felt driven at times to make sure everything around her turns out okay, but Colossians 1:15-17 reminded her that she’s not in charge: “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (NIV).
Because Christ has authority over everything, Ruth can trust him to handle the outcome: “I don’t need to be fearful. I don’t need to walk around thinking it’s up to me to figure it out. I just need to be subject to my king and let him hold all things together, including me and my chaotic life.”
God’s Word for Everyone
Ruth sees evidence of God in all things — his hand in the details of creation, his presence in difficult seasons, his goodness in our messes and his authority over every outcome — but she sees him most in his Word.
Early in their marriage, Ruth and Troy spent a summer in Asia while they explored the idea of serving overseas long term. Although God eventually led them to stay in the U.S., an experience in Asia showed Ruth how Scripture can impact people when they have it in a format they can clearly understand.
“I’m an immigrant. I’m a U.S. citizen [who] was born in Taiwan. My first language was Mandarin,” Ruth began. Because she left Taiwan when she was 4, Ruth is more comfortable using English now, but as the only Mandarin speaker on the trip she did her best to translate.
“I had an opportunity to be the person who sat in an apartment with some very, very new believers and explained Ephesians,” Ruth continued. “They could read it in their language and I could read it in mine. I knew enough to be able to speak the truth of God’s love in Mandarin. I think that was the best time of my summer and where I saw the most difference made.”
“God absolutely gave his Word so that it would be received in heart languages,” Ruth stated emphatically. “It’s important not only to accurately convey what the original writers of Scripture were trying to say; it’s also important to bring it to them with all the passion and fervor and excitement in their own language. … People will see that God is for them and the story of redemption through Christ is theirs.”