In her journey through life, Ruth Smith Meyer has learned that rather than running from difficulties, ordeals, and complications, facing them head on helps to shrink them down to their real size. She is convinced that with God’s help the growth achieved through struggles makes the battle worthwhile. Being honest about her struggles and sharing the understanding she gained is part of who she has become. Much of this learning was crystallized during her first marriage as a presenter with Marriage Encounter.
Ruth’s involvement in church has included serving on the worship committee, being worship leader, and writing worship materials. She was also active in home, school, and community activities, often initiating new programs and services. She was the cofounder of a seniors day centre, serving as Creative Director for twelve years.
Ruth is quite frank in admitting that the biggest curve in her life came with the death of her sixty-three-year-old husband Norman after thirty-nine years of marriage, raising a son and three daughters, dairy farming, and community involvement. After his death she found new meaning in life as a writer and inspirational speaker, the fulfilment of a dream and calling in childhood. The continuing affirmation from those who have been helped and inspired by her writing or talks fuels her desire to carry on. She is open to invitations to share with diverse groups.
In addition to Out of the Ordinary, she has written two adult novels (Not Easily Broken and Not Far from the Tree) a children’s book (Tyson’s Sad Bad Day) and has been included in five anthologies (_Taste of Hot Apple Cider, Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider, Fifty Shades of Grace, Grandmothers’ Necklace, and Tall Tales and Short Stories). She is also a regular contributor to REJOICE!, a devotional magazine.
These days Ruth is strongly supported by husband Paul and their combined families of eight children, eighteen grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
WAP: Can you tell us what made you decide to write your life story?
Ruth: My first impetus for recording my memories was when my mother implied that I remember only the negative things in my life. I was shocked because I didn’t think of those same incidents as negative, but as growing experiences—times when I learned lessons about how to live.
WAP: Why do you think others would be interested in it and what do you think they can learn through your life experiences?
Ruth: Although each person’s life is unique, much of our learning and growing has elements familiar to all of us. I hope readers will identify with some of my story. By being frank and open with my life, I perhaps can encourage others to be so with their own.
WAP: Does your title, Out of the Ordinary, come from growing up in a conservative Mennonite home?
Ruth: Growing up in a conservative Mennonite family automatically makes you a little different from the surrounding community, but that isn’t the only thing that spurred me onto that title. My early memories, the way my eyes worked both independently and still at times together, and even my love of exams and tests didn’t seem to fit in with my friends. I tried to keep others from finding out about those and other things because it made me feel odd or different.
WAP: You went through a rough spot in your marriage. What gave you the courage to persevere when your husband had given up on your marriage?
Ruth: I have such a strong sense of loyalty and desire to finish what I have begun that I don’t give up easily. I also had a strong sense of “troth” that made me willing to give all I could toward healing our marriage and beginning again. When I lost courage and thought of giving up, I leaned hard on God.
WAP: What were the good things that came out of that time of struggle?
Ruth: The biggest reward was a deeper understanding of each other’s needs and a willingness to accept each other’s strengths and to truly become fully wed—a team working together and a love that became deeper than we ever thought possible.
WAP: Having your husband’s death occur when he was still relatively young was another major event in your life. Can you tell us a bit about how that affected you?
Ruth: The journey toward death was hard, but going on living without him was even harder. Especially at the verge of retirement and having planned to have quite a few years to do the things we had dreamed of doing together, it seemed like I had to rewrite the script to every part of my life. I was determined to fully experience grief and to grow through it so that my life would be richer because of it, and it has been.
WAP: What are some of the things you learned through your grief journey that may be of help to those experiencing the same?
Ruth: Take the journey at your own pace. Don’t be hurried through it by well-meaning people who think you should be over it in six months to a year. Realize that you never get over it, but you do learn to live with it and life can become meaningful again.
WAP: What would you tell people who are trying to support a grieving person?
Ruth: Just be with the grieving person and let them talk about their loved one or about their journey. Listen with your heart. Tell them things you appreciated about their loved one, and perhaps that you miss them too. It’s so easy to think no one else misses them because no one wants to talk about them.
WAP: What process do you follow in your writing?
Ruth: My process has developed over my writing life. My first novel had no outline. I just started writing and the story evolved as I wrote. Often the next part of the story came to me in the middle of the night, or when I went for a walk as a change of position. Because the second book came from garnering information from the family on which the book was based, it took a bit more deliberate planning before I began to write. My own story was written from memories recorded over the years, and without a doubt it has presented a greater challenge as to the organization and composition.
WAP: How would you describe your style?
Ruth: Whatever story I tell, I like to make it a comfortable, inviting, and easy-to-read style that will help readers identify with the story.
WAP: Do you have any advice to offer new writers?
Ruth: If you like to write, keep writing. Join a writing group and take advantage of any writing workshops. There is so much to learn by associating with other writers and listening to their advice. It may be hard at first to accept critiques, but if you understand that you need only change if you want to, you will find that soon you will value those critiques and know that they improve your writing.
Ruth Smith Meyer has always been interested in people—visiting them, reading about them, writing about them, and relating to them. Whether caring for her family as a homemaker, being assistant in a kindergarten class, driving a school bus, or working with seniors, people have enriched her life.
Learn more about Ruth Smith Meyer online at ruthsmithmeyer.org.