PHOTO BY SIONNIE

RUTHIE LINDSEY

the deeper sorrow carves into your being the more joy you can contain
— Gibran

Ruthie is a Decorator, Stylist, and Designer, living in Nashville, TN -- moreover, she is an inspiring spirit that leaves every one around her, filled with great beauty.

Ruthie is so joyful and lighthearted, one would not imagine all the pain she has endured; yet, as described within the above quote; she indeed has one of the deepest wells of joy I have come across.

On November of 2013, she felt the personal call to be authentic and write her story; one filled with pain, failure, and brokenness. She allowed herself to be vulnerable and realized that there is something truly beautiful in the entire process. She decided to share her journey, of watching beauty spill out of brokenness.

 

The beginning of a painful journey

During her senior year in high school, Ruthie was involved in an accident that left her with three broken ribs, punctured lungs, and two broken vertebrae on her neck. She had a 5% chance to live, and a 1% chance to walk. The fact that the actual collision occurred with an EMS vehicle, gave her greater chances of survival; otherwise, she would have died on the scene. This is not taken lightly by Ruthie, as she understands the miraculous nature of it all.

The accident happened on her beloved father's birthday. She found herself on life support, and she underwent a procedure, where wire was used for a spinal cord fusion.

A week after coming out of the hospital, Ruthie found herself as part of a school parade, as Homecoming Queen - wearing a neck brace. She relied on the love and support of many people and she went back to what seemed a normal life. She met beautiful people and had beautiful experiences.

 

New beginnings and the search for answers

After college, she moved to Nashville and met her first boyfriend, whom she married after ten months. About a year into the marriage, she began to experience intense and debilitating pain. This in turn, unchained the process for trying to figure out the cause. In the meantime, she was given heavy narcotics and began to feel hopelessness, and despair. She saw many doctors, but the images that were analyzed did not uncover the entire issue. Finally, through a $50 x-ray, a doctor was able to notice that one of the wires from the fusion had broken, and therefore pierced into her brain stem.

No one in the entire world had experienced anything of this nature before. Ruthie was at great risk of paralysis if the wire was not removed; yet, she was also at risk by undergoing surgery (given the lack of previous medical experience with this particular issue). This caused an incredible amount of overwhelm for Ruthie, and she had to rely on her brothers to coordinate all necessary medical details.

 

A love like no other

Ruthie's father had a wonderful love for her, and this becomes beautifully evident through the following account. A few weeks after the new medical findings, her papa ( as Ruthie lovingly calls him), went to pay a visit to some friends. Over the phone, he had expressed to Ruthie's mother and godfather, that he would talk to her on his way back, to let her know he would sell his farm if needed, so that she would undergo the surgery. That night though, he ended up falling from a flight of stairs and dying from brain injury.

Ruthie's godfather decided to set up a fund in her papa's honor, so that she would be able to undergo surgery. Suddenly, people from all over the world began to send funds, and letters; expressing the wonderful gestures her father had for each one of them throughout time. People were happy to give generously, and Ruthie knew that this was in great part, because "he had loved people so well."

 

Finding a hidden talent

As Ruthie was getting ready for her surgery, she was in a state of panic and she needed to get away from the brokenness. She did not have a clue of her own talents, or thought about herself as a creative. She had a great love for beauty, but she was not sure how to create it.

She knew she needed to place her focus on something beautiful, and since she was going to spend a lot of time recovering at home, she decided to make it as inviting as possible. She began decorating room by room and after a feature within a well-known design blog, people began commenting on how much they loved the space and asked for advice.

She did not have a clue on how to replicate the work at a professional level, for she had simply found the hidden beauty in her surroundings and through this, she discovered she was a creative.

 PHOTO BY SARAH BARLOW TAKEN AT RUTHIE'S HOME FOR TAYLOR SWIFT'S ALBUM ART

PHOTO BY SARAH BARLOW TAKEN AT RUTHIE'S HOME FOR TAYLOR SWIFT'S ALBUM ART

Greater pain and disappointment

Ruthie was approached by specialists from the Mayo Clinic and finally underwent surgery. The procedure itself caused a lot of nerve damage; which translated into unbearable burning pain. She did not know how to handle chronic pain, and became very depressed. After undergoing yet another surgery unrelated to her accident and catching an infection, she was once again filled with intense pain and became completely helpless. She felt as if her entire life and everything that surrounded her was coming to an end.

She was constantly under the effects of medication and realized she was not actually living life. She knew she had two options - "to lay in bed in great pain, or get up and live life, and still be in pain."

 

Finding beauty again

She began a four-month process to get off from medication and with the great support of family and friends, she was able to regain her ability to hold perspective and see beauty again.

She describes experiencing something similar to when she first was given glasses in elementary school and the world around her seemed brighter and more beautiful.

A year into this process, things were getting better; yet, in early 2013, she found herself single, scared, and heartbroken.

She knew from experience how not to handle brokenness; whether physical or emotional. She realized that there was nothing life-giving about some of the ways in which she had handled it in the past, so she learned how to "go do life."

She realized that it is easy to chose bitterness, but she did not let pain and brokenness define her anymore. Instead, she wanted others around her to leave her side; loved and empowered, not filled with pity.

She decided to listen into what others said she was good at, and despite not feeling it one hundred percent, she "went through the motions: and made it happen. She was a bit fearful about it, but she decided to "get up and go do."

She began seeking beauty in whatever way she could, and decided to do things that were more life-giving.

She began saying "YES."

 PHOTO BY ABRAHAM ROWE

PHOTO BY ABRAHAM ROWE

 PHOTO BY BETH KIRBY

PHOTO BY BETH KIRBY

A beautiful community

Through her courage and ability to move forward with right action, she began creating a sense of community and collaborating with dinner series. Within these projects, she has been able to set up beautiful tables, where great food is served and lovely conversation happens.

She has been able to share herself to others, both through her great talent and eye for beauty, as well as her brokenness and authenticity. She has given great purpose to her pain, and has not allowed her circumstances to rule her.

 

A BEAUTIFUL ANALOGY

Ruthie found great joy within a beautiful analogy from an ancient Japanese practice called kintsukuroi - ("to repair with gold") -- described as the art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.

Ruthie states, that she has been made into a more beautiful version of herself; a deeper and more authentic one.

 

FOLLOW HER JOURNEY

You may find her beautiful work and follow her joyful bits of life on instagram:

ruthielindsey.com  //  @ruthielindsey

The above story has been adapted from Ruthie's own account during her talk at Creative Mornings in Nashville, TN on March, 2014. You may listen to her words through the below video: