Four and a half years ago, one of my college roommates snapped what would become an iconic photo of me.

Fall 2010 • Grand Valley State University

I didn’t realize until the first Influence Conference how much this picture defined my image online. I think it was Tammy who told me she couldn’t think of me not by a tree. And someone else, when I introduced myself, went, “Oh! You’re the – ” and made the face I’d made in that picture.

Ever since I realized that, when I’m out by a tree, I have to recreate the picture, with varying degrees of abject failure.

Nothing can compare to the original, after all.

Summer 2013 • Shiawassee Park

There are some things, that once attached, are a better combination than peanut butter and jelly. One of those things is that photo of me next to a tree. I’m not naturally an outdoorsy person, although I do enjoy it, so it’s funny and ironic this picture became such a defining point of my brand.

But there are other things, that once attached, are not, in fact, a better combination, and in fact wear out their welcome. One of those things is this blogging space. I’ve been mending the seams of online wear and tear on Blogger for years, dreaming of and debating a move to WordPress. And last night I bit the bullet, bought hosting and a transfer, and took a deep breath of relief.

Once I get a better idea of a timeline, I will let y’all know, but I am going to postpone any in-depth writing on Jamaica (or anything else, really) until the blog is transferred over and redirected. I can promise you it will happen fairly soon and the domain will stay the same.

A new design is also in the works, to come a little later, and for the first time in the history of WSS, it will not be of my design. That was one of the seams I kept mending and mending, pressing on with a dull needle and an outdated skill set. I’m super stoked and relieved to hand over the design part of blogging, much as I have enjoyed putting it together on my own in the past.

I want to thank you all for your consistent support and love. It means more than I can say. The past five and a half years have been an absolute joy to travel with you and I’m looking forward to our journey as it continues on WordPress!


Speaking of Jamaica and trees:

Spring 2015 • Big Tree, Mandeville, Jamaica

living the unexpected

A guest post by Bailey

If I were to be honest, this was not the life I expected. 
I never expected to go to grad school in Oklahoma.
I never expected to dive into community and leave it a year later.
I never expected to move to Seattle after graduation.
I never expected to pursue a degree in theatre.
I never expected to attend Baylor University.
I never expected to leave Texas.
I never expected to maintain only a handful of friendships from high school.
I never expected to meet some of the dearest friends through my blog.
I never expected to find a passion for God’s purpose and power in the arts.
I never expected to find freedom from the painful comparison of my past.

I never expected to be where I am, but I always should have expected God to be good. It’s His nature and He cannot help it.

One of the biggest lessons I’m learning in this season is how sweet it is to dream with Jesus. To dream BIG with Him. There is no fear or flaw in that because He is the God of big dreams. Have you seen the world He created? Have you read, heard, or seen the goodness of His people? Have you been redeemed and rescued by His elaborate, sacrificial plan of salvation where He sent His Son to pull us from our self-destruction and seat us in a place of honor and value at His side? And have you heard of what He is going to do to set all things right again? Talk about a God who thinks BIG. So why shouldn’t we do the same?

I used to think small. I used to think about today and find myself dizzy with the tiny details, or only worry about tomorrow and ten years from now, tearing away the days on my calendar to “make it” to this check point or that. Neither of those were okay. Neither of those were what He asks of us. Neither of those do I claim to have fully recovered from, but I’m surrendering it whenever I can.

As His sons and daughters, we are called to live in the present but for the future.

Let me say that again. We are to live IN the present but FOR the future. Sadly the world promotes the opposite. The world says “We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow, so live it up today!” This is where YOLO comes from. Please give me a good kick if the word letters YOLO escape my lips. It’s true though. You only live once. So what are you living for?

Take a moment to read the following verses:

“How blessed is God and what a blessing He is! He is the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in Him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, He had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of His love, to be made whole and holy by His love. Long, long ago He decided to adopt us into His family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure He took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of His lavish gift-giving by the hand of His beloved Son.”
Ephesians 1:3-6, The Message

Did you read it? Good. Now read it a second time.
What stands out to you? Three things jumped out at me from the start:

1. Long ago, God chose us (you and I) as the focus of His love.
2. He chose then and there to adopt us into His family (and He delighted in this decision!).
3. He is a God of lavish gifts (see Gift #1: His Son, Jesus Christ).

Y’all! This seriously blows my mind! Before the world began –before He created day, night, land, sea, sun, stars, water, air, man, woman, ANY OF IT– He knew your name! He knew mine. He desired a relationship with us and wanted to adventure with us in the work of His kingdom. And He knew what He was getting into when He created us and chose us. For more on this, listen to “I Knew What I Was Getting Into” by Misty Edwards. Over and over again. It has wrecked my world in the best way possible.

He did not stop there though. He chose not only to save us but to adopt us! To bring us into His family and give us an inheritance! An identity directly linked with His! We were trapped in sin, deserving of death, but he wiped the slate clean and promised goodness and grand gifts. Who does that?

Oh, yeah. He does.

“…God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike ‘What’s next, Papa?’ God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who He is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us– an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with Him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with Him!”
Romans 8: 14-17, The Message

And so, I dream BIG. I dream in six different directions at once and I’ll be the first admit it. But I know that I can because at the heart of those dreams is a desire for His dreams. We hear the verse in Proverbs quoted over and over again, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” I believe it, but I’m beginning to see it in a new light. I do not want to delight in Him in order to get my Christmas list. I want to delight in Him so that He may put His desires in my heart. If He is my delight then His desires are my desires.

I may be free to dream in six different directions but I am free from those dreams –dreams that at one point threatened to tear me from God in desperation to make them happen on my own– by surrendering them to His greater plan. He is the Creator of the universe! I certainly trust Him to create my future with just as much care and skill. And His timing is perfect and not on our clock. A day to Him might be a thousand years to us, but it is worth it because He is worthy of it all. I am living in the present, trying to BE present with the people He has put in my life and the opportunities He puts in front of me and leads me to, but also living with a future (Kingdom and eternal) mindset. My discipline and surrender now will pave the way for intimacy and fruit later.

Goodness, all of this simply bubbled out in, as the theme has been, six different directions, but it’s where He’s taken me and I simply had to share! All in all, this is where I’ll leave you:
Currently, this isn’t the life I imagined or expected. It’s so much better!


Bailey is a grad student with a passion for theatre, storytelling, traveling, and art. The way to her heart is a steaming cup of hot chocolate, Shakespeare, Anthropologie, and a bouquet of bright yellow sunflowers. Bailey writes at Brave Love about her adventures in faith, theatre, and savoring life seasons.
Find Bailey on TwitterInstagram

the things of love

A guest post by Britt

I’ve always been someone who has wanted to love and serve people well. Some days that’s easy, some days it’s the hardest thing I can imagine. I have people in my life that are just difficult people to love and choose to pursue, even if they are the ones I know God has called me to do so with.

So what does it look like when it’s not easy to love? What does it look like to pour out your life to the ones He views as worthy?

As we near Easter, we’re given this picture of hope, of truth, and of redemption in the cross of Jesus and the love He poured out for us. But also a picture of pain, of sorrow, and of loss. I talked a little bit this past weekend at an FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) conference that I lead for, on the picture of love that is displayed well throughout the Bible and the peace that it can bring our hearts. I was reading through 1 Corinthians 13, which is one that many people refer to as the love chapter. I’ve read it many times, but have never noticed the caption at the top of chapter that my Bible has listed.

It says love is indispensable. And I’ve realized how much this rings true in my life and how much I see it ring true in other’s lives. The word indispensable means absolutely necessary. And when I think about the love of Christ and the love we should pour out in our lives, I see how consistently this lines up with needing to love others well.

And it makes me realize how worth it all of the things of our life are, the good and the bad.  At the conference this past weekend when we were singing “Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me”, I saw that truth clearly in a picture of hundreds of middle school and high school students who were looking for something; for love, I realize how worth it all of this is. And as I had a past camper come up to me toward the end of chapel, give me a hug, and pull away with tears in her eyes and tell me she didn’t know where she would be if I hadn’t been her huddle leader a year and a half ago, I realize how worth it all of this is. And when another leader finds out her dad is dying of kidney and liver failure, and we pray peace and contentment over her heart, I realize how worth it all of this is.

The pain, the struggle, and the hurt. But also the joy, the victory, and the peace that comes in loving Christ and being loved by Christ. There is nothing in this world that is worth more, nothing in this world that deserves more praise, and nothing in this world that will ever satisfy compared to the that love.

And I think I see a little bit of that love everywhere I go. In the swaying of the branches of a beautifully perfect fall tree. In the smile of my sweet nephew. In the laugh of a camper that I hold close to my heart. And in the little things of the everyday. And it is absolutely necessary.


 Brittani is a post-graduate living and working full-time in Manhattan, KS, who loves coffee, community, and the outdoors. She writes at Synopsis of the Heart about her passion for the life, truth, and hope found in following Christ.
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when a full life becomes a busy life

A guest post by Amy


Hi, guys! I’m Amy, and I (try to) blog over at Sweet Home Santa Barbara.

When I’m not blogging (re: trying to), I spend my time in literal sweet home Santa Barbara by analyzing numbers in my M-F job, studying up on 1 Corinthians for my seminary class, soaking in community at my wonderful church, or at one of the 30+ coffee shops in our area.
If it’s not one of those, I’m driving up the coast to visit my long-distance bf who swooped my heart at a wedding.

Life is pretty full these days, and I’m grateful.

I had every intention of writing about the mission field experience, and the funny way that God always seems to do as much or more in the heart of the one serving as He does in those served. But alas, this week kind of kicked my butt. And I’m sitting here with a different song in my heart, it’s called:

When a full life becomes a busy life.

{Sorry for the game changer, Annie 😉 }


How often do we hear that these days? “How are you?” “Busy.”

I actually made a conscious effort to remove that dang adjective from my vocabulary, because every time I said it I had this twinge of conviction that my busy-ness was becoming a part of my identity. I saw a red warning sign that this was becoming a false security blanket, as if being busy made me feel important, successful, or a valued individual.

I’ve spent my fair share of life with hands gripped on idols, so recognizing my response to this word had me changing things up stat. I knew I could never let a word (or anything except Jesus) contain my identity and self worth, so I deliberately tried to not describe myself as “busy” anymore.

But here’s the thing that I’ve realized;
busy,” it’s not just a word. It’s a state of the mind, and a state of the heart. The literal definition is “having a great deal to do.” And while I may have eliminated the word from my vocabulary, that didn’t impact the busy state of my heart.
How easy it is to move from one activity or obligation to the next without pausing to praise the One who is the reason for this sweet life. How easy it is to look at a day’s agenda as a list of things to do, versus a list of things I am privileged to do.
It is easy to get drained and feel empty when I don’t devote time to the One who fills.
So instead of having a busy life? I want to have a full life.
Full: not lacking or omitting anything; complete
Whether I have a day packed to the brim, or free of obligation, my day can be full because of Jesus. Because of Him, I will never lack anything. Because of Him, I will always be complete.
And I pray that regardless of my daily agenda, my heart will always remember to seek the fullness of the Lord above the busy-ness of the world.


Amy is a financial analyst by day, a blogger by night, and a Jesus freak 24/7. A native of California, she loves reading, running, fashion, and chai tea lattes. Amy blogs at Sweet Home Santa Barbara about her faith, purity, and reflections on life.
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5 podcasts for believers

A guest post by Cassie

podcasts for christians

It seems like podcasts have just taken off with the last few years and I have really grown to love them. Instead of turning to music for my workouts, I have been listening to my favorite podcasts more often. Typically, they are Christian podcasts. I see Christian podcasts as an opportunity to grow my faith and spend time with the Lord while doing what I love (working out). It not only keeps me up to date on current events, but really challenges me to think about things. These are 5 of my favorites:

1. The Influence Podcast. The Influence Network is a community of like-minded women encouraging one another both online and in real life. When I discovered the Influence Podcast I was SO excited. Each episode is an interview with a different creative, blogger, and/or business owner. It’s such a cool way to find inspiration and get to know some of the women on the internet I love the most.

2. Redemption’s Hill Church. This is a shameless plug for our church’s podcast because I honestly think it is one of the bests. I love re-listening to our sermons throughout the week so that I can really take in the message. We preach exegetically and right now we are going through the book of Mark. 

3. In the Room with Ryan Huguley. This is my husband’s favorite. The In the Room podcast is put on by Ryan Huguley, a pastor at Redemption Bible Church. Each episode, Ryan interviews a different person. One of my recent favorites was his interview with Amanda Jenkins who wrote “Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist.”

4. The Village Church Sermons. Who doesn’t love Matt Chandler? I love hearing his sermons, they always teach me something new and put a different spin on things.

5. The BadChristian Podcast.  This one might be a little controversial, but I really enjoy it. This podcast is hosted by the writers at The BadChristian Blog, Matt, Toby, and Joey. They discuss funny, controversial, and personal topics with guests from the music business (they share awesome music), leaders in the Christian world, and even those from well outside of the Christian world. This podcast is REAL and REFRESHING.

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Cassie is a newlywed living in the Midwest with two cats and a passion for everything active and outdoors. She writes at Sage the Blog about her faith, marriage, and love of coffee.
Find Cassie on TwitterInstagramPinterest

with lots of virtual confetti.

You know what time it is:

This month’s linkup is on celebration and Amber and I cannot wait to hear your words!

We’re crashin’ Jamaica and we want you to know about it. Follow #crashinjamaica15 on social media to see our quicker, more minute updates! (And if you follow me on Twitter and/or IG, I plan to post while we’re there.)

Be sure to go over to Amber‘s and listen to joy pour out of her. She calls herself a doubtful, fearful soul, but when you hear her speak words of celebration, you may not believe it.

Just a reminder: Please link directly to your post and not to your blog. Also be sure to leave at least two comments on other vlog submissions. Amber and I consider this a growing community and we want to be sure our behavior is consistent with that. Comments build community!