This is Part 3 of 4 in a series of stories about set apart, a creative arts discipleship ministry. Part 1 tells how Brent & Kristin Morris decided to start set apart, and Part 2 describes how set apart has grown since then.
When Paige DeRuyscher became an editor for Hallmark’s religious team, she wasn’t sure where the job was going to take her. As a self-described hermit, her typical goal for the work day was to get her work done without ruffling any feathers and then go home.
“It was a good job, but it wasn’t something I was terribly passionate about,” she said.
Seated in the cubicle next to hers, however, was Brent Morris, who would become the founder of set apart. Over time, she and Brent became friends through their work together, and eventually, Brent encouraged Paige to try something creative and outside her comfort zone.
“There was a keepsake Christmas card that Hallmark wanted to do, with more of a story form,” Paige explained. “They wanted to find someone to write it. And of course, I didn’t even consider myself – I was an editor, not a writer.”
One day, though, she entered her cubicle to find a note on her desk from Brent: I believe you can do this. Come talk to me.
With that encouragement, Paige wrote the text for the Christmas card, which became a successful, beautiful piece that encouraged people and is still sold today.
“I credit Brent with seeing something in me that I couldn’t see in myself,” she said. “He has the vision for bringing people together who have these gifts they haven’t discovered.”
After that, Paige and her husband began going to the same church as the Morrises, and when Brent and Kristin presented their vision for set apart, Paige was eager to participate. She served as a member of set apart’s board when it first started and has since worked on several projects with them as a writer.
Paige’s involvement with set apart never looks the same from project to project, however. Once, Brent drew portraits of each of the Twelve Apostles, and Paige wrote accompanying narratives about each apostle’s first encounter with Jesus. Another time, she helped write some marketing copy and develop a set of greeting cards for The Gideons International. She has also helped Brent and Kristin develop Journeys with the Savior, a storytelling process designed to help people understand and use the gifts they have been given.
Paige’s personal journey as a writer has included several ups and downs. When she was young, journaling became a way for her to express her emotions and work through whatever issues she was facing in her life. She turned to writing again in college and completed a degree in creative writing. Then she became an editor at Hallmark, worked on several projects with set apart, and now works as a freelance writer.
Between completing the writing projects she is hired to do and raising her young children, however, it hasn’t been possible to begin the book she would like to write yet.
“If I could just push pause on my life and write deeply from the heart, that’s what I’d do,” she said.
Even so, creativity has become a way for her to seek God in an outside-the-box way, separate from the dos and don’ts of her childhood faith. Through creative expression, both on her own and with set apart, Paige has come to see creativity as “a message from God that nothing is wasted and everything can be redeemed.”
“I’m often inspired to take something very ordinary, something I don’t think has much use to it, and [through creativity] it becomes part of something bigger than itself,” she explained. “I’ve always had a passion to help people see the sacred in the ordinary. It’s not just painting a picture – it’s seeing the picture that is already there.”
Through art, community, and serving others, Paige and other set apartists have become revealers of the sacred in the ordinary. In the process, though, they themselves may be the ones who are changed the most.
“I’m such a loner, and so many creatives are,” she said, “But set apart coaxes us into the light, helps us realize what we can do in community. In the midst of coming together for the common cause of serving others – we are the ones who are being lifted up.”