I had been mentoring this beautiful young woman for some time when she asked the question “What is righteousness? You hear about it all the time but what is it really?” It felt like such an important question for a young person to ask and this post is based on a discussion we had.

It took me a long time to respond to her question and I think it’s because I needed to study and ask God; and to separate righteousness from religiosity. The bible talks a lot about righteousness and so does the church. As human beings, when we discuss it, I feel like righteousness and religiosity are blended together and it’s not right. Sometimes we talk about righteousness like it’s something that can be gained or perhaps earned…and maybe if you don’t have it you just aren’t that faithful. Somehow we cloak righteousness in shame. I think that’s where religiosity comes in.

Lori and I were talking about this awhile back, she says it better than I ever could so with her permission, I’ll quote her:

“Religiosity confines us and blinds us to a false state of submission because instead of submitting to God it causes us to submit to man.  Enrobed in the cloak of ‘fear of man’, religiosity also binds us and motivates us to do whatever it takes to keep a false sense of peace and harmony.  It holds us captive as victims in feelings of subserviency, inadequacy, doubt in our ability to hear God and trust what He is speaking to us, inferiority, false humility, helplessness and angst within our very core.  Religiosity cripples us and makes us reliant on the things the world (man) can offer to bring us comfort; to save us (if we DO this for that person we are going to get to heaven). It also makes us feel better about our own sinfulness by causing us to be judgmental and critical of others. It places man on a pedestal and dethrones the King of Kings totally negating what and WHO Jesus died for. “

Righteousness is something sacred and beautiful and pure – and to me, deeply private and intimate. God called Noah righteous, and David a righteous line. To me, one way of describing what righteousness is, is purity of heart…not to be confused with perfection. David sinned many times and yet God said he was a man after God’s own heart. See, it’s always about the heart with God.  He sees RIGHT to the heart and knows our motives for doing things or not doing things (long before we do). He knows all of our imperfections and our fears and our quirks – he has named every mask and wall we have.

He just longs for the heart.

This is why it’s so important to separate religiosity from righteousness because religiosity is all about performance and man pleasing. It’s all about doing right and being right.  Righteousness is a hidden gem within the heart that shines with a true love for God…it’s ALL about trusting God.  My most favorite scripture in the Bible (if I had to choose one) is in 2 Chronicles 20:12 “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you Lord.” It’s one of my favorite passages. It starts way back before Jehoshaphat’s story with two kings before him. Every time they walked in their own strength, there was war in their kingdom.  God uses war to bring us back to Him. Adversity is never wasted.  I always try to remember that when chaos threatens to overwhelm me and I’ve surrounded myself with friends who are willing to remind me. Back to 2 Chron.; when they turned their eyes to God and walked in His strength, there was peace. Righteousness is about the dedication of the heart. I don’t know if I’m able to get out to you what really fills my heart when I think of this…it’s intimate and between you and God. There is something about knowing our identity – truly knowing who we are and what we’re made for.

There is something woven tightly,
yet ever so gently into the
heart of each of us that calls out to God
and beckons us evermore towards Him.

It’s ultimately our choice which way we take. If we seek to know and be known by God in earnest, in the quiet moments when no one is watching…in the intimacy of our hearts we offer ourselves to Him – then our eyes are on Him even when we don’t know what to do. To me there is nothing more intimate than righteousness. It’s not something we can acquire or endeavor to gain.  It’s a fragrance and offering to the King as nothing else we ever could.  To me, when I look at all the men and women in the Bible called righteous, I see their hearts are towards God.  Yes they sin (we all do) but they offer even their sin to God with a love so deep that words can’t even hold it. It’s the ultimate willingness to open all of our hearts to God – even the nasty, sticky parts; the dark, hidden parts…it’s a willingness to let Him touch every part of us. I don’t know if there is anything more sacred than that.

When I asked my mentor about this, he responded by saying:

2 Corinthians 5:21 talks about where Christ exchanged His righteousness for our sin and we exchanged our sin for His righteousness. Romans talks about the imputed righteousness of Christ that is ours. That is in your words Laurel, something that can only be described as sacred and pure and beautiful. And then there is also the reality that while we do need to choose the right, in and of ourselves, left to ourselves we could do nothing right, so righteousness is something deeply intimate because it can only flow out of intimacy with Him.

I have been talking a lot about being vulnerable lately…vulnerable with God especially.  I just love that last statement by my mentor:

Righteousness is something deeply intimate because
it can only flow out of intimacy with Him.

Clothe Yourself With Christ

My dearest friend Lori sent this to me and gave me permission to share it.  She and I have walked quite the journey together over the years, lots of long, deep conversations about identity and much more!

“You know we go through life wearing ill-fitting garments due to conformity, identity complex, and to protect and cover our brokenness and pain. I believe God has us in a time of stripping away those old ill-fitting, cumbersome, form hiding cloths that not only weigh us down but hinder our transformation and maturity. I keep envisioning little girls playing dress up in cloths 10x too big, walking in over sized shoes and stumbling and falling as they try to look the part…

I want to wear the garment the
King designed for me to wear.

Even if it’s form fitting, and my scars show…
Even if I feel vulnerable and open…”

Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Romans 13:12, 14  So let us set aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ,

and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

I think God is moving in the hearts of women, nation wide – world wide!
We long for rest; the kind of rest that only comes from knowing
who we are in Christ!
We long for connection; the kind that lets us be who we really are, broken, vulnerable and real.

Be Courageous – Women of Faith!

Strip off the layers, the ill-fitting cloths that hide who you are, that weigh & wear you down…that keep you from intimacy with the KING OF KINGS.

Put on the garment of praise &
Clothe Yourself With Christ

Anchor your soul…

If you haven’t read the first part of this message, Hello Courage, grab a cuppa something warm and come and sit by the fire. I’ll tell you the rest of the story…

The question arose, “Does God take us through wilderness seasons to make us ask questions?”   God calls us to a place of deeper trust and surrender…to draw us to growth and transformation. I had asked what I was doing at this event, in this moment the rightness of this time and place settled deep into my heart as I listened to the speaker share her heart with us.
She said:

“If He calls us to a place, He equips us to go there.”

…He is calling us to believe Him, to trust Him.
Again and again throughout the weekend, this phrase kept coming to me.

She brought up one of my favorite scriptures

Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God, I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

Does God ever speak to you in themes? You know, when He is trying to speak something to you and a similar message or exact word pops up in almost everything you do! Fear vs. love is one of those themes He has had me on for some time now. He’s been showing me the difference between walking in a spirit of fear and walking in a spirit of love. Fear not… The speaker said that when we remember who God is, we can be bold and courageous and love more extravagantly because no matter what, we know He will rescue and uphold us. That is another theme He’s had me on,


…when we remember who God is and when we know His character,
we are not afraid.

Shelly spoke out of Matthew 14 when the disciples found themselves out to sea in the middle of a storm. Oh they were so afraid. She painted a beautiful and heart breaking picture through her words – the disciples had battled, they were weary, exhausted, it had been a long, hard night, and they were afraid!
There they were doing what God had asked of them and yet still,
they found themselves out to sea…

Do we ever follow where He leads and find ourselves out to sea,
amidst a storm?

I know I have. I’ve been scared. Terrified at times. But if we know Him…if we trust Him… The disciples had been intimately acquainted with Jesus, walked with Him daily; yet when He walked on water and approached them, in their weariness, in their fear, they did not recognize Him.

Tears filled my eyes. I realized it. Matthew 14. The ship. The sea. My journal. Tears flowed down my cheeks now and my sweet sister Lori put her hand over mine. Shelly said “Do you think Jesus didn’t notice that the disciples had drifted off to sea? Do you think this surprised Him? … Sometimes He calls us out to sea to show us the things in us that block us from seeing and believing Him.”

calls us out to sea.

Then she said it.

Hebrews 6:18-19 …we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor to the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf…

I heard Him whisper…

“Laurel I know the plans I have for you. Plans to give you hope and a future…anchor your soul to me Beloved. That is your Word…”

Journal blessed

I praised Him and celebrated His great love…tears just falling freely.

Maybe you’re experiencing a storm. Maybe you’ve been obedient to His call and still find yourself out to sea. Fear not! Anchor your soul to the Father who will rescue and uphold you!

Hello Courage!

I sat outside in the truck. Alone. No one had arrived yet. The fall colors were amazing but even they couldn’t stop my heart from racing. “What am I doing here?” I asked myself. The resident dog looked at me from outside the vehicle as if to say, “What are you doing here?” I could feel my eyes begin to fill with tears. Again. “I can’t do this Lord. I don’t want a new family. I’m scared. And broken.” I felt His nudge, a gentle whisper, “I know the plans I have for you Laurel. Building. Oneness.”   …the words from my latest journal. Every time I begin a new journal, He gives me a new word and a scripture to go with it. I rarely know what the word means or how personal the scripture is until the end of my journal. It’s part of the journey He has me on. Trusting Him. Giving Him my heart. I end every journal with the scripture and word He gave me, with some special message from my heart on the journey He’s had me on for the time spent in those pages. That is when He reveals the next word and scripture for the next leg of my journey. I begin the next journal with that same message from the heart, with the new word and a new scripture. That way when my peeps are reading my life story, they’ll know which journal is next.

I looked down at my journal now, through tears. It’s my most beautiful one yet. It’s a rich blue with a ship on the front. My last journal was all about WAR. I learned so much through those pages. When I got this journal, I felt Him whisper “Laurel come home to my safe harbor, all tired and weary. Find rest in me.” In fact, at the time I felt like all 10 of my InCourage Team members were finding safe harbor with their ships too. I had this vision of us all finding rest together. It was comforting. As I rested I would look out to sea. Sometimes tears would come. Sometimes joy. Sometimes just the mist of the ocean on my face. I felt Him whisper “Soon Laurel, I’ll send you out to sea. You are going to need to know who you want with you on that ship.” I didn’t understand it then. It’s one of my favorite things about Him, the mystery. Yet now I was almost done this journal and He hadn’t given me a scripture for it. He had never done that before. And now, here I sat I waiting for the women who were organizing this event so I could help set up. Sigh. My heart was racing again.

Why was I there, you might be asking. Well I needed to find a new church home. I had tried this church before and really loved the pastor. I knew a couple of women who went here. But my heart still longed for something lost…and I wasn’t really ready to dive into a season of transition. Are we ever ready? I had decided that if I was going to see if this could be my home,

I needed to be ALL IN.

I needed to go with an open heart to see these women through the eyes of their Father. To go with a willingness to invest in them, serve them, see them and know them…and love them.

Okay, maybe I’m the only one who does this but at this point, I dug in my heels a little and said “Okay God! FINE! If you want me to find a new church home, and this is it, you’re going to have to prove it. I’m almost done this journal and I don’t even know what it’s about. Building Oneness. What does that even mean? And WHERE IS MY WORD?!” (Insert near tantrum).

…just then I heard a car.  Oh, they’re here. Heart racing. I stepped out of the truck. One step. Then another.

“Hi. I’m Laurel.” …

They welcomed me with open arms, putting me right to work. I got to know names quickly. It felt homey.

Then the speaker stepped up. I looked at her, I mean really looked – with my Papa Eyes – His eyes for her. I saw a courageous, beautiful, broken, mosaic of His creation. “See,” He said, “You aren’t the only one who has been hurt. Do you see her?” Yes, I saw. And her brokenness didn’t look like ugly scars, it looked like light shining through glass.
“Hi y’all.” She said (yes she really said that).  “I’m Shelly.”

Hello Courage!

** click here to read part 2 of this post.


I was having (virtual) coffee with a friend this morning – on her blog in Texas – and she has been discussing seasons. I had so much fun meeting Shelly in September when she traveled from Texas to northern Canada to speak at our ladies retreat. It almost made one giddy to watch her walk up the hill from her little cabin to the hall, taking pictures all along the way. What a whole new thing for her to experience, for us to experience with her … and JUST FOR HER, God let it snow while she was here (yes, in September). I wished I had been able to see her face when she awoke to snow.


This is our little cabin right in the heart of fall. Isn’t it beautiful?

Shelly’s got me thinking. Season’s aren’t always fun or beautiful.
Sometimes they’re hard. Yet they are ever changing, bringing with them a reminder of what we’ve come out of and a glimpse of what we’re heading into.

I received lots of comments and emails from my last post – welcoming me home, it’s been a long time since I’ve written much here. I’ve been in a season of quiet rest. A season where I needed to lay things down and just rest in what He has for me next.
Refilling. Restoring. Life inpouring. Amazing.

No matter what season we are in, God never leaves us there. He puts people in our lives who He can speak to us through, who can touch our hearts, allowing us to touch theirs.


I’ve been looking at Genesis with my kiddos, and the wonders of creation. God is a god of order. He spoke into chaos and created. The thing about the order of God’s creation is that it always depended upon what came before and prepared for what was yet to come.
Aren’t seasons a perfect reminder of this?

Bless you in whatever season you are in. Knowing that the living, breathing God of the universe is there with you.  While seasons change, He never does.

Hey you might want to hop over to Texas and have coffee with Shelly too! May she touch your heart, as she has touched mine…

The Art of Journalling

I was talking with a friend about writing.  “It’s a craft,” she said, “something we have to practice and hone.”  To me, writing is like breathing. I can’t live without it. It gives a voice to my story.

She knows I am an avid journaller and she’s been privy to many of the revelations I’ve received through journalling over the years. A few days after our talk, she texted and asked me about my thoughts on journalling, on sharing journal entries and more. What is to follow is a conversation between she and I; her questions, my response:

“Over the last 20+ years I’ve always had two journals. One was my happy God stops and reflections, the other was my heart journal where I didn’t hold much back. I didn’t want one to contaminate the other, sometimes I’ve discarded journals or quit them for that reason…obviously no one should read those ones. Yet after our talk about writing, I’m not so sure now. Is it wrong for me not to want my kids or anyone else to read my journals?”

I used to do that too, have more than one journal. It felt very disjointed to me as well. When I got serious about journalling, I wanted my life to flow and I wanted it to be real and true to myself, and to God. I needed ONE journal where I could spend my heart and tell my story. Now having said that, I do have an ugly journal – it’s my healing journal. I started it back in 2010 when I really began my healing journey. It has forgiveness letters, confession letters, letters to God, angry questions that are literally only between God and myself. I will burn that journal when it’s done. If I am done (gone) before that journal is done, I’ve ask Mr. Handsome to burn it. The purpose for that journal is to have a safe place where I can spend my deep, deep hurts and feelings that I can’t handle…that I don’t know what what to do with.  I write in that journal quite rarely (less and less as I become more and more healthy). I don’t feel it represents my story, it’s an ongoing, personal discussion between God and I, and is meant for His eyes only. I do not go back and read that journal. EVER. … That brings me to something else about journalling, I often do go back and re-read my journals.  It helps me to see the many ways and times when God was gentle with me, when He answered my prayers, when He spoke to me, when He just tenderly held me, and it helps me to be grateful for the journey.

I made a commitment to myself to be real, vulnerable, honest and raw in my journals – no shame – just me being right where I’m at!  However, I don’t write things I might regret later.  If Mr. Handsome and I just had a disagreement and I’m full of emotion, I do not write details. I will still be honest and say, “God you know my heart. You know the situation. You know I’m outright angry and slightly irrational!  Give me a clear mind, a heart to seek truth and until I can be logical, put a gate over my lips.” I know God well enough to know that He cares not about the details of the disagreement, what He cares about is putting His finger on something within me that He wants to flush out, break apart, and heal. I can safely say this for every situation…

His eyes are always on the heart, not the circumstance!

In regard to your question about showing others (she knows that I save all of my journals and intend to gift them to my children when I’m gone)…I don’t typically write with the thought that anyone will read my journals – if I did, I could never be real, honest or vulnerable.  I never began my journalling journey with the consideration that ANYONE would read my journals. It’s a thought that has grown as I have grown and as I’ve come to realize that I am a storyteller. I have a story to tell.  There are things in my earlier journals that make me cringe – I’ll be embarrassed when my kids read them; very selfish and immature. But it was real. It was where I was at the time I wrote them. My kids (and grandkids, and great grandkids) could never appreciate the woman I am without knowing the woman I was. So here are my thoughts on leaving my journals to my kiddos: my journals are full of things that I cannot share now…they may be inappropriate for the age they are at or some other reasons. They are a part of me. They are my story. My faith journey. My legacy. My truth. They are a love story between me and God.  I want my kids to keep getting to know me after I’m gone, the real me. I want them to see my struggles, my fears, my victories. I want them to know I’m not perfect. Faith is not easy. I want them to learn that they can make mistakes. They can cry. And scream. I do.  I want them to fall in love with me (all over again and in a new way) through my journey – long after I’m gone. Stories are life. They are sacred. Words only dance when spoken and written. Otherwise they are nothing but suffocating restraint!  Sometimes they stomp out. Sometimes they are mixed with blood. Sometimes they are light as a butterfly and extraordinarily beautiful…but what they are NOT (when written as a sacrifice to the King) is trapped alone in darkness.

Brene Brown says that vulnerability is the key to creativity!  What does it mean to be vulnerable with the ones we love the most?

What does it mean to be vulnerable with God?

What’s your art?
What legacy do you want to leave behind?

The Builder’s Stone

stone wall

Has God ever asked you to do something REALLY, REALLY hard?  Like love-someone-who-shows-you-nothing-but-rejection hard? Like move mountains, walk on water, part the seas hard? I’m willing to bet that if you KNOW Him, He has asked you to do something hard! Today’s scripture in my journal was Jeremiah 29:13-14 You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord.

Yeah, read that last part again, “I WILL BE FOUND BY YOU.”  God wants to be found by US. How cool is THAT?

Back to the hard…last year God gave me a scripture and I didn’t yet understand it.  I didn’t yet know the hard places He would have me in or the need for LIVING WATER that never fails!  I didn’t yet know of the city He’d call me to.

Isaiah 58:11-12  I will give you a full life in the emptiest of places – firm muscles, strong bones. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Some of you will rebuild the ancient, deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.

The thing about God is that when He asks us to do something HARD, He also provides us with what we need to accomplish it in HIS strength.  In our own strength, we have and are nothing. We’ll strive and try to do it right, to fit it into the box the world has made for us…it never works. In His strength, strength that is TRUTH, strength that invites, inspires, encourages and releases, we can do all things!  Our real strength is IN HIM.
He goes before us and prepares a path…

As I mentioned in Evangel Post (that link will open in a separate window) yesterday, it was Valentine’s Day and I was SO excited to see what He had for me.  I woke with a deep excitement and expectation in my heart!!!
What would my Beloved King gift me with today?!
I felt the cool leather in my hands, worn with use and stained with tears,
I opened His Love Story to Me and prepared my heart to HEAR.

Isaiah 54:11-13 I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires. I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparking jewels and all of your walls of precious stones. 

I was so excited and called my dearest friend Lori to share my gift…He had spoken to her also.  She reminded me of a picture God gave her awhile back of His Great Love falling down on us and turning us into stones and gems of all the most beautiful, vivid colors.  The thing about precious gems is that they are pure, multifaceted and they reflect. You can always tell when a stone is precious or fake by this.

He is building me,

I am the Builder’s Stone.

My hope is that I can and do reflect everything that He is;
truth, grace, mercy, love and more!
How exciting is THAT!~

…and when I don’t, refine my heart Lord and my heart beat to the beat of yours!!

Hello, I am Laurel ~ The Builder’s Stone.