Living Out the True Woman Message

Sept. 25, 2010 Holly Elliff, Bob Lepine, Karen Loritts, Carolyn McCulley, Janet Parshall

Session Transcript

Bob Lepine: We've asked all these women to join us and talk about some of the themes we've been exploring here over the last day and a half and I have to start with you, Holly.

Holly Elliff: Oh, good.

Bob: You’re the mother of eight.

Holly: Eight.

Bob: Eight. That's a big number, eight.

Holly: It is a big number. Didn’t ever think I would get there, but that’s what the Lord took us to.

Bob: I want to know, when people come up to you and make that snarky comment, “Don't you know what causes this?”

Holly: I say—yes.

Bob: That's a good answer, I think. We only have five, but we've heard the snarky comment and sometimes I've gone, “No, we don't know. Can you explain it to us?” Then they don't want to go on from there. But you’re pastor's wife, mother of eight. You have to have been, still are, exhausted.

Holly: Not as exhausted as sometimes because I've been in a hotel room this weekend. But yes, you're tired when you're a mom of a lot of kids. You don't get a lot of sleep for a lot of years.

Bob: The ages of your kids right now are?

Holly: Right now they're 32 to 14.

Bob: Wow. So you still are in the fight with it, right?

Holly: Yes, as far as I know.

Bob: When they were all younger. I'm managing that as they get more self-sufficient. It's a little easier.

Holly: Yes.

Bob: Although I think some of the physical exhaustion turns to emotional exhaustion when they become teenagers, right?

Holly: I actually love having teenagers. I’m weird, but I love having teenagers.

Bob: Even with the drama?

Holly: We've had drama forever. I have four girls and four boys. If you have four girls you're going to have some drama. But I love having teenagers and having deep conversations late at night.

Bob: You do?

Holly: I do.

Bob: I'm glad you do. I'm wondering how you have found margin; how you find margin for your life? How do you keep from becoming depleted, and where do you build that margin into your life, and how do you do that?

Holly: I don't know that I focus too much on building margin. I focus a whole lot on running to God. There are just times when you can't margin in time or sleep. I loved Joni's testimony last night in her video because there are moments when the only thing you can do is run to the Lord for the strength to do the next right thing.

There are moments when I can't budget my time the way I would like to. But I have found that God is an inexhaustible supply of strength. If I make the choice to make sure that happens, so if nothing else happens but I get time with the Lord, then even if I'm running on less sleep (and I'm very grateful that I don't have to have a lot of sleep), if God is in control of my spirit, then I can still function.

Bob: I'm sure there have been moments or times or seasons when that priority has slipped in your life. When that's happened, how have you recaptured it? What have you seen happen when you don't get that time? Just talk about that.

Holly: Those of you who have kids… we also care for my mom who has Alzheimer's, and so there are just seasons in your life where you get so pressed in.

My daughter just had a baby a few days ago, and it's just really hard at those moments to find designated time to sit before the Lord.

So I think you have to almost get where you pull a curtain around you in the midst of what you're doing and invite God into a little special place. I think about Susanna Wesley who used to throw her apron over her head. I don’t wear aprons, but her children knew that if she had the apron over her head, they had to leave her alone—she had a lot more kids than I have. So that doesn't always work.

I remember one day I said to my kids, “I've got to have a minute by myself. So I went in the bathroom and I closed the door. In a few minutes I saw . . . I had said to them, “Do not bother me unless there is blood.” But in a few minutes I saw this—we were working on some schoolwork— I saw this math paper slide under the bathroom door. No knock, no noise, just the math paper coming under the door, and I knew whose it was. I said, “Joshua!” And the math paper just slid back out. (laughter)

Bob: Janet, I want to talk to you about motherhood. You're a mother of three, right?

Janet Parshall: Four.

Bob: Four children, and they're all adults now. I described you when I introduced you as a Renaissance woman, and I mean that. You are intelligent. You’re articulate. You have a lot of ability. You have a lot of energy.

Janet: I thought that meant old.

Bob: No, no, no, no, no. (laughter)

You and Craig made a deliberate decision when your children were born that you were going to step out of what really is a gifting area for you, an area of capability, an area of passion, and you were going to be intentional about raising your kids. Did that at some level kill you?

Janet: No, because I really hadn't stepped in yet. Craig was my high school sweetheart, and I had dedicated my life to the Lord when I was 14. I just knew that I wanted to serve Him.

I didn't care where or how or when, I just knew that my life belonged to Him, and I wanted to serve Him. So when these babies started to come along, and these four little stepping stones came right back-to-back, it was in the midst of the feminist movement. I was turning on the television and hearing women say a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. Or they would say motherhood is an illegitimate profession. But I kept hearing this still, small, sweet voice that said, “Janet, I want you to look well to the ways of your household.”

So even when this cultural war was going on right outside my front door, Craig and I knew if God had blessed us with these children, we were the best department of health, education, welfare, and we had to take care of those babies. (applause)

So we made the decision that I would stay home, and I have never found a sense of frustration. Holly used an extremely important word for women, and that’s this concept of seasons. Women really do live their lives in seasons. If there is anything I as an older woman can say to younger women it is to say—enjoy the season you're in.

God is not the author of confusion. Within the parameters of that season, He has some very sweet, precious, eternal lessons that He wants to teach you. Don't rush to the next season. Enjoy to the fullness what that season has to teach you.

So everything that God taught me about values and family and writing biblical truth on the hearts of my children (the tablet of my children's heart) that was all stuff the Lord was using in preparation to defend those values in the marketplace of ideas. My Father wouldn't have asked me to go out in the public square if I hadn't had to learn how to do it around my kitchen table, so it was part of His prep. Listen, if He sent Paul to Arabia for three years, He can send me to my kitchen table for as many years as He wants.

Bob: That's great.

Holly: I love that point. I love how seasonal our lives are. I don't know about the rest of you, but I remember just even when I had children and was at home with them. Even in terms of accepting speaking engagements or going out, it would be, “Well, I think I can do it.” My husband and I would sit down and talk about it.

“I think we can manage like two or maybe one this year.” There were many years where it was like, “Okay, twice, and that's it,” because you are in a season, and you must be faithful to your season.

I wanted to get to the end of my life with raising my children with no regrets, and I wanted to make good decisions. So that meant I have a professional degree in rehab medicine. So making decisions about my education, making decisions about how to manage my household, how to manage ministry responsibilities . . . Women have to make those choices, I think, to a far greater degree than men do in the season in which you are in because you want to honor your God-given responsibilities. You've all found that, too.  

Dannah: The Lord is ministering to my heart right now because the Lord is blessing my ministry and yet tethering my heart to home, and so I'm constantly faced with decisions, most of which I have to say “no” to.

Just this week I had a couple of really unique opportunities. We have an event tonight in Tulsa, Oklahoma with 3,000 tween girls and their moms. It’s a tremendous temptation for me to want to just fly there, to add another day to this trip, but the Lord just really said “No. You have two of your own at home. Go take care of those two.” Specifically, I have a great invitation in three weeks before we're in Ft. Worth. The day before I could meet someone who would really further some opportunities for my ministry, and God said, “No, not one more day, not an extra day.”

He blessed me so much because I made that decision the day before I flew out for this event. Had I flown out a day before for this event, I would have missed—you know those nights at home where you could never plan them? But there’s something out of a movie and your kids just . . . they’re good for a change? My college-age son just decided to show up, of course, with his laundry. I had beef stew in a pot, and I had made some homemade apple sauce, and it just kind of turned into one of those nights.

Holly: It clicked. Those are the ones you live for, right?

Dannah: I was like Lord, if I had not . . . If you're not obedient to the Lord, you miss those. If I had chosen to fly to this event a night earlier, I would have missed that night. And what tethers my heart to it is women like these reminding me.

When I sat down at dinner the other night, Marlae from Moms in Touch just said, “Girl, here is my business card. The next time someone asks you to fly into an event a day earlier, you call me and ask me first.” (Laughter)

So there are seasons, and I'm in that season where I have a limited number of opportunities where I can go out and minister like this, which I love, but I have to take care of my own family first.

Bob: That season expires sooner than you think it will.

Carolyn, I want to talk to you as one who is single, not a mom. So much of what we talk about in terms of what it means to be a woman revolves around husbands and children. You've had to work out what biblical womanhood looks like with the absence of those in your life. Unpack some of that for us.

Carolyn McCulley: I think it's important for us to understand that God has made us women independent of our relationships. There is something in our femininity that we are supposed to be reflecting of His character, and it really came home to me when I was studying Proverbs 31. I realized that this teaching was to a young man learning his alphabet because it's a 22 letter Hebrew acrostic. So he's learning his alphabet, and he’s learning the values of a woman who would make an excellent wife. And I realized, “Oh, I guess those things are supposed to be evident in my life now.” It’s not like, boom, you say, “I do,” and then click. Suddenly you become the Proverbs 31 woman.

That roadmap is very helpful for single women because even though we don't have those immediate relationships in our lives, we're still called to emulate all the other values in Proverbs 31, Titus 2, etc. to God's glory.

It requires a different path of wisdom to figure out how to balance the need to support myself with having a heart for the home and seeing the home as a mission field even as a single woman and investing in other people.

I think a lot of people don't realize there are seasons in single life too. I'm watching my nieces and nephews hit high school and I’m going, “No. They're going to be dating before I do!” (laughter) But it's a different season with them.

I have to be intentional in the same way as an aunt. I don't have the same priority but the same ability to try to speak into their lives.

Holly: Carolyn is the fun aunt. She’s the fun aunt.

Carolyn: Yes, but I have a retirement plan involved with that because it’s like, “Who is your favorite aunt? Who are you going to take care of when she gets old?”

It's a little self-serving, just a tad.

Bob: Let me ask you about the work that you've been doing in filmmaking.

You've been looking at womanhood from outside of the American culture and seeing what is God saying to women not just in our environment but throughout the world. What have you learned about the essence of biblical womanhood once you stepped out of the American culture with it?

Carolyn: In my travels I've had the opportunity to visit many developing nations in my film work. What has really come to hit my heart is understanding that there are people, individuals who suffer around this world simply because they were born female, and they have fewer opportunities.

So my heart is for the biblical womanhood message, as much as we talk about the issue of roles, which is very important, but we also don't forget to voice the fundamental equality that you find on page one of the Bible in Genesis 1:27 that men and women alike are made in the image of God.

If we're really committed to this message, we should be at the forefront of those who are seeking to help women around the world, whose lives are being devalued and whose opportunities are denigrated.

Maternal healthcare is a big passion of mine because all of us are here as a result of pregnancy. Knowing there are so many women around the world who die in childbirth, I feel like that should be a mission which we who value motherhood should be at the forefront of helping.

Bob: That's great, yeah.

Karen, we haven't heard from you yet. On behalf of these women, I just want to say thank you for your transparency yesterday, your vulnerability. (Applause) I wanted to know since February when the entire situation came to light, you've had the opportunity to be in settings where you have seen the person who violated your family. What have you done? What have your emotions been? What have you done with your emotions in that time? How have you handled that?

Karen Loritts: First of all, I would like to say that up until last Tuesday I wasn't going to talk about anything. But God took my notes and did a whole lot of editing and rearranging of them, so I was surprised. But that's how God works.

What's been really interesting is, forgiveness, and probably because the mother part of me just reached out to this person because it could have happened to any of my children, my husband, or me. I've been almost surprised. I'm still upset and angry, but I was really able to forgive this person and embrace this person, kiss that person, and assure that person of my love. And with that person, tears and crying, that person was able to accept that, even though that person felt as though they did not deserve that. The mother part of me did something that was completely . . . like I said, I was ready to punch somebody, but God came through.

Bob: The journey in that . . . to get there, was it . . . How did you get from “I want to punch somebody” to embracing and forgiving?

Karen: I think watching my children and my husband, their various responses to that. People may have thought, “You're just in denial. You're being too sweet and too forgiving.” But I don’t know what happened. It had to be God and the Holy Spirit.

Crawford helped me to be a little bit more balanced and not want my children and everybody else to become victims of that. Everybody has to process. Talking to my friends and sharing that and being balanced. Then keeping my anger and bitterness to myself without expressing it, especially to my children, so that they wouldn't be more inflamed by my stuff.

It's kind of crazy. If anybody would do a video on what happened, it's unreal. But I have to say it was something supernatural because there is no way . . . We're still in process.

I've talked to this person, loved on this person. I don't know, it's a God thing.

Bob: You have been in full-time ministry ever since you and Crawford got married, haven't you?

Karen: 39 years

Bob: 39 years! (applause)

Bob: Yes. And in the process of that, you've raised four children. Talk about what these women have been talking about in terms of your own spiritual life. You're called to ministry and serving the Lord, raising a family, loving your husband, keeping those balls all going in the air in the right circle. How have you done that?

Karen: I have no idea. (laughter)

God has created us women to do that. Men can't do that.

We can cook the dinner, talk on the phone, iron the clothes, and still make sure everybody’s acting right.

Bob: We're focused; you're a multi-tasker.

Karen: The thing of it is, we were in church planting ministry in Texas and Mississippi for a while, then itinerate ministry before that, and then 27 years with Campus Crusade for Christ. So we had a lot of ministry. I was always involved in supporting Crawford.

God had gifted me in teaching and all that kind of good stuff. Then as I had children, they were like sucking the air out of me because I wanted to be on campus with the students. When our youngest went into school, I was lobbying for the public school system. I was just trying to figure out how to do this until one day-talking about the seasons of life-I realized I was in big trouble when I was gone more time down at the state capitol on behalf of my children's education, and my children are recycling their underwear. They’re microwaving hot dogs.

I said, “Something is wrong with this picture. Someone else can go down there and lobby, but no one at this particular time God has called to raise my children but me. And so, girl, you need to get yourself together.” (applause)

Mary Kassian: Janet, we had dinner about a year and a half ago, I think it was. You were telling me the story about how you and Craig worked together in figuring out how you were going to stay involved in his life and looking forward to perhaps what God might have in the future. I love that story and was wondering if you'd share it with everybody.

Janet: Craig has the gift of wisdom, and he is a marvelous teacher. As these four little stepping stones came . . . I had a degree, but I stepped away from doing what I was degreed in to stay home and take care of these kids. My precious husband, who is an attorney, would come home with a legal brief—complete with the blue paper on the back, the white paper on the front. He would say, “Here, honey, when the kids are taking a nap, read this brief. Then when you get a chance, what we'll do is after the kids are down, you’ll tell me who you would pick to serve on the jury and who you would side with, the plaintiff or the defendant.”

I thought to myself, “Why would I do that?” I was big into Pampers and Sesame Street. Why would I be reading a legal brief, right?

So what happened is, I put the kids down and I started reading these things. Then after it was just our time, when we had those minutes together, we'd start dialoguing. A couple of things happened as a result of that.

Number one: Craig was really teaching me how to be a critical thinker because you think linearly with kids. It’s just step one to the next step. But he really made me do some abstract thinking that I hadn’t had to do with raising kids.

But there was also a subtext to what he was doing that was marvelous as well. It was setting the trajectory that our lives would blend together and not grow apart.

I didn't want to get to the point where after all the kids were out the door I would have to wear a name tag saying, “Hi, my name is Janet” and reintroduce myself to him.

So in the process of reading these legal briefs, our lives started to blend together in a deeper and a richer way. It kept me very involved in what he was doing. I could ask more insightful questions about his life, his practice, what was going on. He had a greater understanding of what was going on in my life, and it was a marvelous tutorial.

I look back, because God is so good. He is so purposeful. He never ever, ever misses an opportunity in His classroom to teach us. God was using all of that for the prep I would need for the work He was preparing for me down the road a piece. I praise God for what Craig did.

Mary: I love that because I think so often we think that if we're home with kids, that's all. That is it. That's all there is. But God has given us an incredible amount of mental energy and emotional energy. It's important to stay engaged. It really is very, very important to stay engaged. Sometimes, I am worried about women who make their children the only thing, and they do not engage in ministry. They are all about their children, and they don't teach their children that life isn't just all about them. They don't engage their children and draw their children into realizing that life is about serving others.

It’s important that you draw your children into the whole discipleship process. “Someone is coming over because Mommy is going to pray for them tonight and we're setting extra places.” You need to stay engaged, and you need to stay intellectually engaged and mentally engaged.

I know Brent and I had this sign when I had a real tough day and I just needed to get out in the evening and needed to engage. I had this “V.” I would go like this.

It meant vegetable brain. (laughter) So he would walk in and I would go—and he said, “I think Mom needs to get out tonight and engage.”

So I really appreciate that because husbands do that. They sense that, and they draw you in. A man who is a good leader in your home will challenge you. Probably there is no one who has challenged me intellectually more than my husband to think, and to engage, and to engage with ideas and theology books and to wrestle with concepts. So our house is a fertile place for learning and growth for the entire family.

Bob: Let me talk about husbands for a second, because a lot of these women are headed back to them today. You should warn them that the house will not be very clean and there will be no food available.

I hope they know that. I hope they understand that. I think when they left they thought, “Yeah, disaster area coming.” Holly, let me ask you. Tying into what Mary just said, it's possible for your children to become an idol in your life, isn't it?

Holly: It's possible for anything to become an idol in your life.

Bob: Except for Jesus.

Holly: Well, He's supposed to be.

Bob: That's right.

Holly: But I do think it's important for women to realize when they are mothers that it is not that you, as Mary said, put your brain on the shelf or you quit thinking or you quit learning. Whether you're single and God is dealing with you in those aspects of your life, or whether you're married and you're currently raising children, God is still interested in your growth. So that never changes.

Even if you have more children than I have, God is still about transformation. So He's going to use whatever is currently in my life, whether it's being single or traveling or raising my kids, He is going to use whatever is in my life to shape me and mold me and make me look like Jesus—if I will allow him to do that.

So it doesn't mean that my brain goes away just because I had a baby. I do have to be more intentional. If I have children, I have to be more intentional, I think, to make sure that my focus is not just on kid stuff. It is important to have conversations with your husband at night. Take the time to talk about current events; talk about what God is doing in your church or in your own ministry. Don't just yield the floor totally when you're raising kids. Still stay plugged into the realities around you.

Janet: Date your mate. Find that time where it's just the two of you because, Lord willing, they will walk out the door someday, and you won't be putting a revolving door in the front door. They will stop coming home. You want to make sure that you continue to invest.

It's God, family, and everything else in that order. Even in the family hierarchy it is your husband and then your children. But you talk about intentionality, which is a word we love to use. When you're exhausted, when you’re tired, when the kids have sucked the life blood out of you, you still have to look at that precious man where you made that covenant relationship and say, “I'm going to prioritize this.”

What Craig and I would do is every three months we would literally take a calendar and we’d plan a time where we would go away for a weekend. We didn't care if it was a Motel 6. It was just going to be the two of us away so that we constantly would have that romantic aspect of our marriage forever in place.

Bob: Did you drive that or did he drive that?

Janet: We drove it together. I have to tell you why. When you start dating a guy when he's 17, you just start growing together. I was blessed that way because he was my high school sweetheart. He wasn't saved when we started, so I kept hearing the words “run, Forest, run,” just because I wasn't supposed to have anything to do with him.

This is I think just to show you God's intentionality, literally, because I knew I wasn't supposed to be unequally yoked. So I said, “Look, I’m not going to date you.” He saw me as a Christian. He thought, “This is a challenge. I’m going to take her down,” and that was his challenge.

We would literally sit on the front step of my house, and we would talk about things. I wouldn't let him in the house. We literally sat on the front step. What I didn't realize is the guy was reading John Paul Sarte and Nietzche and was into the existentialism and Nihilism. I went, “I’ve got The Four Spiritual Laws,” and I’d trade the tract with him.

He got interested in that, and he said, “You got any more?” I gave him

C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. He gobbled that up. Long story short, he read every piece of Lewis I had in the house, and he came to the Lord. Then I said, “Now we can date.” (applause)

Bob : We’ve got a lot of young wives here. They’re headed back home. Give them your best piece of advice about what a wife can do to honor, care for, minister to, and bless her husband? Who wants to start with that?

Dannah Gresh: We talked yesterday with the teens a lot about going back to Mount Moriah as many times as you need to in your life because a good thing can be an idol. Isaac is an example where a child was an idol.

We talked about all the other idols—boys or having a boy or having a husband. Last fall my husband and I hit a patch where I was kind of feeling . . . Women, do you ever have that sense like something’s wrong, but you don't know what's wrong? You’re like, “We're not right, honey, it's just off.”

In September I kept saying, “It's off,” and October, “It's off,” and November, “It's off,” and he's like, “What are you talking about?” In December he finally goes, “It's off.” (laughter)

I said, “I know.”

Sometimes you don't know why you need to go to Mount Moriah. You don't know what the idol is. I can’t really tell you if the idol was our children or if the idol was our ministry. But the two things together were the reins on our lives, and they dictated every moment of our day. We had no extra time or margin in our schedule.

But we set from January on . . . We pulled out of our small group, our Bible study group, in terms of being active. We were involved. We were tethered to them. We were accountable to them. They were helping us with our marriage, and there were all these different things that they just put in place for us:

We had to have a date every week.

  • We had all these guidelines about we weren't allowed to go to bed at least one night a week until we had two hours where we were just focused on each other and didn't talk about ministry, didn’t talk about kids. There were a lot of nights where we just stared at each other blankly, like, “I can't think of anything to talk about.”
  • We took a two-week vacation that we barely could afford, but our accountability pastor said, “You can't afford not to.”

All that to say, about a month ago we sat across from each other, and we felt like we were 16. “It's on! It's on! It's on! It’s on!”

You have to, especially moms with little babies . . . One of the things my husband was brokenhearted about when we had babies was that I just didn't want to get a babysitter. I wanted to be with the kids, and that got in the way. That really got in the way of us being able to be emotionally and intellectually connected, because you can't talk about Nietzche and The Four Spiritual Laws when the kids are running around.

You have to have those conversations with each other. So just go home, find what it is you have to sacrifice so that your marriage can be fed.

Bob: Karen, what about you? What advice would you give to these young moms?

Karen: I would say it’s sort of like a fire hydrant of stuff that’s come to all of us these last three days.

First, be prayerful. Look at your notes, and ask God the Holy Spirit to zero down one or two of the things God has been tipping at your heart that you need to change. You may need to get rid of some of the girlfriends that are not taking you to the place where God wants you to show true womanhood. Get rid of some of those girlfriends. Make that phone call. Text them, email, whatever you need to do. Surround yourself with women that are godly women that will pray for you.

Then make a list of things that need to change in your life. I was a wife for a period of time in the earlier years that didn't want to leave my children. And my husband said, “No way that's going to happen. Find a babysitter. They're going to be okay.” Make those priority choices because your husband is the person that God brought into your life, so you need to invest in that relationship. So look at your life and do an extreme makeover, and do those things.

Then have an accountability person. You need a Martha, Mary, and Elizabeth in your life—an older person, a person who is your peer, and a younger person to round out your life a little bit. Believe God for those things and start the process of changing. I'm going to be 60. You know what? I'm changing, and change is a good thing, but you need to start.

Carolyn : I would love to jump in here, too, because when I hear the discussion of marriage and family, I hear it through the lens of the local church—the fact that I am part of that family and of being brothers and sisters.

I'm part of a new church plant now where I am the Titus 2 woman. I looked around. I’m like, “Oh, how did this happen? I'm the oldest woman here, whoops.”

It's a lot of young families and a lot of young couples. I see my investment in them is the fact that if you understand the cultural warfare against marriage, you'll realize how important it is to invest in these kinds of processes we're talking about tonight.

The date night. If you don't have a family right now, if you're not married or don't have children, or if you’re in what I like to call an open season rather than an empty-nest season, it's an opportunity to invest in the relationships that are around you. It's so important that marriage and family stay together because the world is looking, and they're looking at the witness of the local church. If our families aren't intact, we undermine that credibility.

For us who are single, who want to have date nights ourselves, I would say, “Pray for the other couples in your church and then offer to serve them.” Because if you're looking strategically at what is happening you'll say, “I'm not being denied something. I'm investing in something.” Go and offer to serve other families and say, “Your time together as a couple is a key to the strength of our local church.” (applause)

Mary: I just love Carolyn's life and Nancy's life as single women. One of the things I've noticed about them is how intentionally they invest in relationships with married couples. I believe that provides them that roundness and that focus in life where they are a part of a larger family. It's not like they're just spending all their time with singles. They're spending a lot of time with people in all sorts of phases of life. They are very intentionally cultivating those relationships.

Carolyn is a great babysitter for her friends or for hosting a dinner at her home and inviting married couples in. Her life is a testimony of integrating into community and that becomes a family support. The Lord is able to minister through that.

Carolyn : It works both ways, too. The fellowship that comes through that is amazing.

Karen : I think so, too. As married couples, sometimes we see the segregation. In our church we have: the singles, 30 and over singles, and then you have the married couples. Then if you get married and you were in the singles class, now what class are you going to go to? You don’t know these married couples, but still like your single friends, we married couples need to still embrace these singles. And singles, it's okay to be with the married couples.

We married couples need to not only look at the singles as our babysitters, or we’re going to match you up with someone, but just as another person in the body of Christ.

Carolyn : Although a match-up is okay. I’ll volunteer. (laughter)

Dannah: Bob, you had asked a question about what can you do in your marriage. Go home, and how do you get things on? I just think of Revelation, how it talks about first love and waiting towards the Lord. What we do is remember the things that we did at first and do those things.

I think that advice goes for marriage, too. Remember the things that you did at first and do those things. So if you used to get yourself prettied up, do it again. If you used to cuddle up, do it again.

The difference between September a year ago and September now is that I look at my husband and I think he's hot. Now, my pastor would not appreciate that word.

He says we have to say, “My, isn’t that person a lovely vessel in which the Holy Spirit can dwell?” So I just want to say that a marker that you are investing well in your marriage is that you look across the table—and it doesn’t matter if you’ve been married a week or 50 years—that you’re going to see a lovely vessel in which the Holy Spirit can dwell.

Janet: I want to pick up on that. I want to pick up on that because you are not interested in that part of the marriage if you're not connecting emotionally.

It's like that scene out of Orson Wells’ movie where the marriage table gets farther and farther and farther apart.

So I want to talk about the emotional aspect of it because love does change from the day you say “I do” until the day the Lord calls one of you home.

With the understanding that there is that covenant, it will be there until the Lord calls one of you home.

C.S. Lewis said the will must necessarily precede the emotions. There are times in our marriages when we look at our husband and we just go, really? Really? You used to make my stomach flip. Now it's like, really?

That's when you have to say the will precedes emotion. For me, what I do in my house, and it goes back to something that Joni said so poignantly last night. I want to remember that there is such a great cloud of witnesses watching this absolutely precious unit called a family—designed by God in the garden before the fall of man. It tells us the primacy of that relationship to the heart of our Father. Satan would like nothing more than to take my marriage down, and I'm not going to let him take dominion in my household. (applause)

What that means in a pragmatic way is when I look at him and I have one of those moments when I think, “Oh, I wish it was like prom again, and it's not.” I look at him instead and say, “What does Jesus think about your husband?” That immediately translates my feelings from, “Forget your feelings, Jesus loves him unconditionally, can you love him the same?”

Bob: Wow, that's good. That’s good.

Holly: I just want to say a word. As you guys noticed, when Nancy had you stand, I think it was last night, if God was dealing in the area of your marriage. Did you notice how many women in this room stood? This is a critical issue in our society.

What happens is, like Dannah mentioned, we ignore it and it's off, but we ignore it.

If you ignore it long enough, you will not be married to your husband. So we have to be very, very careful about making sure that God is in charge of our home; that we are in the right place relationally with our husbands; that we are in the right place with our children, related to our husbands.

If you have teenagers, it is very, very hard to get time with your husband because they're up late, and he goes to bed, and you may not ever even speak a word to him without your kids being around.

So be very, very cautious that you are intentional about maintaining and restoring the primary relationship in your home, which should be your marriage.

Bob: Dannah, I want to ask you, since you're working with tweens and teens, and since the culture is screaming at them regularly a message that is contrary to what we've been talking about, do we stand a chance? Are we making any headway?

Dannah: We’ve got 400 warriors sitting out there in the audience right now. (applause)

But I do want to say I am concerned with how the church is just going along with the culture, and it's about marriage. At the core of it in Satan's cross hairs is marriage.

Because as Mary said last night, marriage is the picture of Christ and the church.

If that's true, how motivated is Satan to see that picture destroyed in our lives? What we know is that when you take these little girls—they're 7, 8, 9, 10 years old—and you dress them the way the world wants to dress them . . . They're 7 years old, but you want them to act like they're 17 with the music and the movies and the television they listen to and the clothes that they wear and the language they use and the relationships they have. They don't need a boyfriend when they're in the 5th grade, moms. (applause)

This is . . . trace this with me for just a second. When they're teenagers, those are the girls most likely to engage in early sexual activity, most likely to have eating disorders, and most likely to experience chronic depression to the point of needing intervention of some type. Because of those things happening in their teen years, they move into their married years with body image issues, with scars on their hearts. They are incapable of receiving the gift of covenant marriage that God has for them to enjoy.

What Satan is planting in our daughters when they're 8, 9, and 10 years old is for the destruction of their marriages when they're 25 years old. We as moms have to stand up and say, “No, you won't, huh-uh.”

Janet: I think there is a statistic we need to point out, too. It's amazing for those of us who grew up during the period that was known as the sexual revolution. There are more people co-habitating today than there were in the 1960s. There are a lot of reasons for that, but one of the reasons is because this is a generation of children of divorce. They’ve seen the pain, so they actually have a phenomenon now known as “start a marriage.” This is where you marry somebody and figure one to five years, maybe, and then I’ll find the real love of my life, so I work out the kinks. I get rid of the pain and then I go into a marriage relationship that lasts.

If that’s not another reason to keep our marriages together because what message are we handing the next generation? I can’t think of a better one.

Dannah: We can be really smart about this. If you look at social science, it’s going to support what God's Word says. One example is that one of the most liberal studies out there on sexual satisfaction conducted by the University of Illinois at Chicago. It says that the most sexually satisfied women are who have never had a sexual partner other than their husband, are middle-aged, and are married and are religiously active.

It’s on. It's so on. The revenge of the church lady. It is on.

Karen : And isn't that special?

Carolyn: That's a first, Dannah, Bob’s speechless. Are you blushing, Bob?

He is.

Bob: Maybe. Hold on. I can handle anything.

Carolyn, let me ask you, because you live in a part of the country that is not the Bible belt. In fact, somebody said to me that I live in a part of the country that's like the Bible bell bottoms. We're so far away from the belt. We’re as far away as we can get.

You also interact with a lot of non-Christian women and again the culture for years has been screaming at them a message. Are they starting to see the counterfeit nature of that, or is it just so inculcated into what is going on that they don't know any other way to live?

Carolyn: I sense a lot of confusion, because what the culture is proposing as a solution isn't bearing the fruit they're looking for, and they're confused by it.

So when you come in and you say, “Look, I've been studying the history of women in our nation and what we're in the midst of now would be called Third Wave Feminism, and it proposes to be pro-sex and pro-pornography. So when the church is talking about modesty and other issues like that, sometimes young girls can hear it like “la, la, la, make me dress like grandma.”

The idea is not trying to make people fashion backwards, but the idea is to say if you understand what the culture is proposing right now, that pornography is the highest ideal. If you're young, you don't realize the culture didn't use to be as “pornographized” as it is now.

You used to be able to go to the shopping mall and not see erotic pictures all over the windows. You used to be able to go places where women were professionally dressed and you didn’t see all their body parts. If you understand the level of temperature that is in this pot of water we're living in and how it's rising, you'll understand that one: God is, as we’ve heard, pro-sex. It was His idea. He created it for marriage. Then you understand, too, that what is proposed to be a good theory on relationships isn't working.

So you have the opportunity to come in and say, “Look, even the culture is sometimes coming back and trying to explain the false ideas.” One of the things that fascinates me the most is that one of the writers of a show I do not recommend, Sex in the City, is a married man. He had to explain to the other female writers on the show, “He's just not that into you,” to help them understand their own lives and the decisions they were making. So he writes this book, He’s Just Not that into You to explain why the message of Sex in the City doesn't work in real life, and why if men value you, they will pursue you, and you don't have to trash yourself for it.

I'm looking at this thinking, “What a franchise.” You’re speaking on both sides, but it's kind of a sad that there is such confusion that you have to kind of parse through the culture and say this exists for this reason, this exists for this reason and now here is the truth of Scripture.

But even for me as an unbeliever, the truth of Scripture was compelling because of the fruit I saw in the lives of the people who were in my church, and it made sense.

Bob: So if you were engaging with a non-Christian, thirty-something woman today who is feeling some of this angst, that, “Yeah, the way I've been taught isn't working, but I don’t know what does work,” and maybe you’re not ready to sit down and open the Four Spiritual Laws with her, but you want to whet her appetite for something different, how do you engage on that?

Carolyn: I used to try to come in . . . and this is really more about me. Personally, I would come in with my whole exposition, but now I’ve learned to ask a lot more questions and to listen and to try to find the heart issues for her and lead her through questions that helps to see her own lifestyle and her own philosophies that might be not be working out. So it is not a one-size-fits-all model in trying to talk to women.

Janet: I'm on the same side of the country as Carolyn is. It's always good to go back to the basics. One of the most important parts about True Woman is a life that has been transformed.

If you hear all of these debates and the chatter that is going on in the marketplace of ideas, I think the most compelling argument is a life that exudes authentic Christianity. You hear women who have tried it all, who are climbing up the corporate ladders, who are demanding equal rights, who are complaining about what they don’t think is equal pay for equal work, and all of the old issues that come up over again and again and again. Then they encounter somebody like Carolyn, and they see a peace that passes all understanding.

They don't see the same striving for the same kinds of issues. They see a kind of calmness in the midst of a cultural storm that they can't quite identify yet by name. There is the open door to start the conversational evangelism to slowly move them to a point where over a cup of less expensive coffee, they say to you, “I don’t get it. Why do you seem to be able to not be bothered by all of these things?” It begins to open the door for dialogue, so in the end, it isn't about entering through the head. It’s about entering through the heart, because they've seen something in our lives, the living epistle that says, “Honey, whatever you've got, I want it.”

Bob: That's good.

Holly: I was just going to say, as Carolyn said, there is so much confusion that it does make the value of our homes really, really important. If we're believers, and we're married, and we're raising a family, it needs to look like God's design. Because if it doesn't, then we're tearing down the best tool God has given us as married women to draw somebody else into that truth and give them hope that God can make that work.

Bob: I heard Tim Keller say one time that as he engaged in New York City around the gospel, he said, “I will less often talk about moral absolutes because that's in play in the cultural mindset. What I will talk about is can we have some consensus that things in the world are broken that they're not the way they're supposed to be?” Then he'll say, “Would you agree that in your own life things haven't worked out exactly the way you hoped they would that something is broken?” Then he says, “How do you think that happened? Where do you think that brokenness came from?” All of a sudden, there is a door that's opened.

Because people who might want to argue with you on the moral rightness and wrongness of premarital sex or abortion or gay marriage will admit to you, ‘Yes, things are broken. They’re not the way they're supposed to be.” All of a sudden you have a common point from which you can begin to pursue the gospel.

You ladies have offered us invaluable wisdom here, and I want to say thanks. Would you thank these women for joining us? Thank you. (applause)