Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Authentic Mentoring, Day 1

Episode Resources

Learn more about becoming a Ministry Partner.

Leslie Basham: Mentoring is very practical according to Donna Otto.

Donna Otto: I think there’s no phase of a woman’s life that she cannot learn from an older woman. Sometimes it is absolutely the minutiae of life that rearranges us. It is that tidbit that says, “Here’s how to put a menu together." "Oh. Is that how you get it to the table hot at the same time?”

So an older woman is that woman who comes in and gives her life perspective.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of the soon-to-be-released book, Adorned. It's Monday, January 23, 2017.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: It’s a joy to welcome back to Revive Our Hearts Donna Otto, who is a wife, a mom, a grandmom, she’s an author, she’s a speaker, she’s a founder of a terrific ministry called Homemakers By Choice. She has a heart for the Lord, a heart for home. She’s been with us before on Revive Our Hearts, and, Donna, we’re delighted to have you back with us again.

Donna: Thank you very much. It’s great to be here.

Nancy: We’re joined today by about thirty women who are with us in the studio who’ve come to be mentored.

As I was reading your most recent book, I learned that we have something in common.

Donna: We do—lots of things.

Nancy: You probably don’t know this, but something that came as a little bit of a surprise because I’ve never heard anybody say this before the way I say it, and people who know me have heard me say for years that my goal in life since I was a little girl has always been to be a godly, old lady.

Donna: How sweet.

Nancy: When I read on page 207 in your book something similar, I kind of smiled. You said: “From the time I was quite a young woman, I have seen myself as a gray-haired teacher who derives energy and pleasure from helping younger women learn to manage their lives.” And I thought, She’s always wanted to be a godly, old lady, too.

Donna: I have.

Nancy: Have you found that the old part comes easier than the godly?

Donna: (lots of laughter)

Nancy: That’s my experience.

Donna: A hearty, “Yes” to that.

Nancy: And so, you and I are both gray-haired women now, and you have a heart for mentoring younger women for nurturing and encouraging them in the ways of God. You trained your daughter as she was growing up. Now she’s out of the home, and God is using you to train and nurture other women.

Talk to us about how you got this whole burden for mentoring and what that means.

Donna: I don’t think I ever got a vision for it as much as I paused long enough in one of my rhythms of rest to see what it had meant to my life. I was completely overwhelmed by the number of women who had intentionally swept into my life to help me.

Nancy: Who’s the earliest one that you remember?

Donna: My seventh grade teacher, Mrs. Eric, who I tried to find as an adult woman. I tried to find her. She was already dead. She came into my life like a storm. She was my seventh grade home room teacher. She came into my life and said, “I want you, Donna Centanne, to leave this classroom and go into this classroom.”

In doing that, I was leaving precious friendships because there was no way to keep connected with them and go into this new classroom. I cried, kicked my feet, stormed about, told her that she was mean and awful. I can’t imagine all the things I really said to her.

But she told me later that she felt that God (she was in the public school system) wanted me out of the environment of those girls. One of Otto’s mottos: “You are who you hang out with.” Every one of those five girls came to an early demise and dreadful life.

Nancy: Oh, wow.

Donna: She dropped me into a classroom of young women who I still, fifty years later, we are friends. We are seeing one another two or three times a year, and a couple of them serve Christ with me.

So, yes, she was my seventh grade teacher, and she intentionally, with forethought, did something I didn’t like; I didn’t want.

Nancy: But she knew it was what would be best for you.

Donna: She did.

Nancy: She had a vision for your life.

Donna: She did. She saw into it beyond what I could see, and then was willing to do something about it. I know the word mentoring is not a word we find in the Scriptures, but the concepts of mentoring are very godly principles.

Nancy: Yes.

Donna: I think it’s a time and an era—Francis Schaeffer says, “The spirit of the age seeps into the church.” I think there are certain words and certain concepts we bring into the church because they work because they really are biblical concepts. A lot of women in my life came in and said, “I want to mentor you. I want to help you. I want to encourage you. I want to affirm you. I want to teach you.” There was a composite of all of those things.

So when I paused long enough to see that was in my life, I thought, I, too, want to do that. Then I went to the Scripture to find there were many places that God encouraged me to do that.

In the Psalms, He says, “Give to the next generation the deeds and actions of God” (78:4). Well, how hard is that?

My definition of this thing called mentoring is giving your life perspective away—giving your life perspective away.

It’s uniquely mine. Now, look, we found we have this in common: We both wanted to be gray-haired, godly girls. To me that’s kind of a lot of g's there—gray-haired, godly girls. I did want to do that, I think, because I hoped that when I got there, not that I have learned everything, but I would be past the hard siege of learning and be able to pass it on.

Of course, the passage that draws most of our attention is the Titus passage, and for me that passage was not only the reminder that God had called us to do it, but the reason for it, which is all summed in the last phrase: “That the Word of God will not be dishonored” (3:5).

Nancy: Of course, the passage you’re talking about is where older women are instructed to train younger women:

  • how to be a woman of God
  • how to be a godly wife
  • how to be a godly mother
  • how to be a keeper of their home (see Titus 3:3–5)

Nancy: What you just did is so seldom done with that passage, but you divided all women into four main walks of life. When we pause long enough to look at womanhood, we say, “We’re always a woman.” My grandmother was eighty-five years old before she stopped taking care of the room she lived in. We all take care of a space where we live until we die, or are unable to. Most of us are wives and most of us are mothers. Now, I’m not talking about the isolated cases. I’m not talking about the population that is single. But they still fall into two main categories of this passage.

Here is Paul telling his young disciple, his young mentee, his young protégé, his young son of the heart, “Now you go back and tell those old women . . .” The context there is that these old women had raised their children, had already recovered the sofa for the last time, had children, and their husbands, and their relationships, and now what were they doing?

They had afternoons free, and what they were doing was going from house to house sipping a little too much wine and becoming malicious gossips. Well, thank you, I can become a malicious gossip without the wine. And Paul says, “You go back—I don’t care if you’re a young man—you go back, and tell the women, ‘This is not what you’re supposed to be doing; this is what you’re supposed to be doing.’”

One of my mentors and heroes of the faith is Elisabeth Elliot.

Nancy: Let me just insert here. I know that some of our listeners have heard Donna on Gateway to Joy in years past, which I believe is where I first heard you. The Lord gave you the privilege of learning a lot from Elisabeth, one of your spiritual heroes and mentors. What are some of the things you learned from her?

Donna: She’s been that to thousands, tens of thousands.

Nancy: It’s amazing how often I hear women say, “Elisabeth Elliot was a mother to me.”

Donna: Yes, a spiritual mother, yes.

Nancy: I think some of our listeners would love to hear what you learned from her.

Donna: What I learned from her was the encouragement to learn what God wanted me to learn on my own. I was in her study—she had this beautiful study. She lived on the East Coast, right on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. Out her windows, which they designed the home so they would be that way, where she typed and worked, was the ocean and the rocks crashing . . . I mean, the waves crashing on the rocks. I’m in this little study, sitting on the sofa with her. I ask her this question (this epitomizes what she taught me and how she taught me), “Okay, Elisabeth. Tell me what you do every morning here in your study time.” Why? Because I wanted to do whatever she did.

Nancy: Yes.

Donna: Now, I didn’t tell her that. I don’t think I even knew that myself, but she knew that would not be good for me. I look back on that one little conversation, which represented many conversations where what I was saying was, “Tell me, tell me, tell me so I can go home and do it, do it, do it your way.” I’m a persistent girl, and I asked her that question in four or five different ways that morning. She never answered me. What she did was direct me in her way to find that out for myself.

Nancy: Because she didn’t want you patterning your life after her but after the Lord.

Donna: Exactly. And now that young women ask me that question, I understand it.

Nancy: Yes.

Donna: So what did I learn from her? What I learned from her is that she respected God in me and what God wanted to do with me—that I didn’t become an Elisabeth Elliot-ite devotee but that I became a devoted-to-God woman. She kept encouraging me to go there.

You know the pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey game?

Nancy: Yes.

Donna: Years ago I thought about this, and I thought, That is a mean game. You put a blindfold on someone; you turn them around and make them get dizzy, and then you say, “Now, see if you can find the donkey.” I’ve thought so many times that a godly woman inspires a woman of the next generation, and she plays pin-the-tail-in-the-donkey, only she plays the game by saying, “Jesus is the one riding the donkey. I point you to Him at every time and every opportunity—not to me. I’m not going to turn you around like the world does and try to confuse you and make you dizzy and then laugh at you when you make a mistake and put the donkey’s tail on his throat. I’m going to point you to the one who has all the answers.”

Now, Elisabeth always was very sweet and gracious to me. I know she is a strong woman, and she can be severe. She still says she never said things like, (in a stern voice) “God ordained that you participate.” She says, “I don’t talk like that.”

And I go, “You do. Everybody knows you do.” (laughter)

Nancy: But we loved her.

Donna: We all loved her. But she was very respectful of what God wanted to do with me in my life.

  • She taught me by her own life.
  • She taught me by her disciplines.
  • She taught me by the way she was devoted to doing the right thing.

Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, but right is right no matter how few people are doing it, and wrong is always wrong no matter how many people are doing it. And she lived her life that way.

Right is right no matter how few people are doing it, and wrong is always wrong no matter how many people are doing it.

So I watched her, and I caught it. She allowed me to be a woman that she taught. She taught me many things both personal and private and public and how to do what God’s called me to do.

I loved her, and I love what she has done for women in America, women around the world, through her writings.

I think the other thing that she taught me was God will call whom He wants for you to reach into their lives. I do believe the Titus passage gives me the mandate. Shall I wait for young women to knock on my door? I think not. I think God says, “Old women, go out and do this.”

Nancy: So you asked the Lord, “Whose life do You want me to invest in?”

Donna: Exactly.

She laughed one day and said, “Women are so busy right now. They are doing underwater macramé just to keep from discipling and training and being older women in the lives of others.” I mean, how silly is underwater macramé? But we find a lot of reasons for being busy and not reaching in by the mandate of God to other lives.

The mandate is: Give your life perspective away to a younger woman.

The reason why we don’t want to knock on the door of someone’s house is because we’re afraid they’ll think, I’m knocking on the door saying, "Here am I. I have all the answers to your life."

Nancy: And you’re not saying that as a mentor.

Donna: Not at all.

Nancy: And actually you’re saying sometimes, “Learn from my failures. Learn from the things I wish I had done differently.”

Donna: Most often because that’s the authentic life of a godly woman who has not done it right and is not perfect, doesn’t even try to be, just tries to live the standard and ideal that God has set before us in the Word. So that mandate is: Go out there and give your life perspective away to a younger woman.

Nancy: You talk about two different kinds of relationships we need as women. One is with mentors. The other is with what you call sisters. Help us know what the difference is and why we need both.

Donna: Yes, sisters. I suppose it’s because I didn’t have a sister that I love the word sister. In two places in the gospel, He describes what family is. “Who are my brothers and sisters?” When you read that, you almost hear a tone of—if Christ could be sarcastic, He is, because His mother and His brothers, literal biological brothers, are standing out there beckoning Him. They are almost accosting Him to stop running around and doing so much and come home. I can see Mary, the little Jewish mother, “Come home. I’m going to make you some chicken soup, and you need to get some rest.”

Then Christ says, “What do you mean? Who are my mother and brothers and sisters?” Then He closes that by saying, “Those who do the will of God.”

Now, I have a biological brother—I have two biological brothers. I don’t have a sister. My biological brothers have not made a choice for Christ. I believe that in womanhood, we need women who have made the choice for Christ who are choosing to live their life based on biblical principles, who are increasing as Peter says, “Increasing every day in every way." Not that we draw a line and say, “This is it. I don’t need to learn any more," but increasing every day in their walk of faith. That woman is a sister of faith who I journey through life together with.

Nancy: So what does that look like?

Donna: She looks like a woman my age. She looks like a woman my stage and status. My daughter married late, had a child late. She was very frustrated for a season in her life when her former dearly beloved friends, sisters of the faith, were all marrying and having children. She would say to me, “We have so little in common these days. They don’t understand where . . .”

“No, honey, they don’t. It’s all right. They’re still sisters, but you need to have a sister who’s walking in faith where you are. The sister who says, ‘I understand that. Today I want to get in the playpen and send the children out.’ It’s okay." (laughter)

Donna: "I don’t have time to flush the toilet today. I don’t have time to prepare a meal today. I feel sleep deprived today." And that sister on the phone says, “I understand. I am with you. I am walking with you.”

My best friend is a woman who is three weeks younger than I (and she never lets me forget that). But we are walking through the same stages of life: married, children grown, children single, daughters, marriage that changes after retirement. Men are changing as much as women are changing, and I have to learn to live with this new man I’m living with. This is not the man I married. I’m learning a new thing.

Nancy: So this is someone who encourages you.

Donna: She walks with me. She understands. She’s at the same space. She’s not the older woman who’s been there already. She is the woman who’s walking with me, not the woman who’s walked ahead of me. We have fun together. We pray together. We cry together, and she knows what it takes to serve me.

In the 2 Timothy passage where Paul is pouring out his heart and saying, “The house of Onesiphorus needs to be blessed by you, Timothy . . .”

Nancy:  . .  . “as he refreshed me.”

Donna: Paul described, “he often refreshed me” (see 1:16). I think that is “she often serves me.” Why? Because she understands when I need to be served right now. Call me on the phone and tell me you’re praying for me today—that serves me.

Nancy: There’s a way that sister can bless and minister to your life that’s different from how your husband does.

Donna: Yes. I really love Hannah. Of the women in the Bible, Hannah is always at the top of my list. She was a pray-er, a perseverer, a faster, but there’s that little vignette in the account where her husband (her husband who has more than one wife) comes to her after her acknowledging, praying, fasting, and weeping in the church. He acknowledges that she is barren. He comes to her with these words: “Hannah, Hannah, why are you weeping? Am I not better than ten sons?” (see 1 Samuel 1:8). Does he get it?

(laughing)

Donna: He doesn’t get it at all. He thinks that he is as good as ten sons—to a woman who is barren and desirous of having a child. Now, if I say anything about that walk of my life to another woman: how I feel monthly, how I feel if I’ve been barren, how I feel if I’ve lost a child in miscarriage, how I feel if I wanted six children and only had one—every part of that I can say to a woman, and she gets it. She understands immediately. So, yes. There is a relationship with a sister.

Now, we’re not talking about friendships. I’ve written a whole book about friendships—best friends, peripheral friends—the kinds of friends we have. But this sister is probably defined as the best friend in this season of life. Does she stay with you your whole life? Some women do. Some women don’t. But it is a woman who is walking through life with you.

So you have a sister over here who is walking with you and a sister over here who—in faith—who is an older woman, who’s walked ahead of you.

Nancy: And that’s what you call the mentor.

Donna: That’s what I call the mentor.

Nancy: Speak to these younger women about the importance of asking God for a mentor.

Donna: Yes. I think it is clearly God’s desire for us and clearly the tool that God uses in our lives. When you have seen an older woman who has walked ahead of you and has been through what you’ve just experienced—devastation of health, financial reversals, unfaithful husbands, children who are unfaithful to the cause of all you taught them and gave to them. I can go on and on with that list of things that are common to a woman’s heart.

Now when you have an older woman who has walked through those circumstances, been driven by her conviction, has calm in her life because she’s past that, and she looks at you and says, “It will be okay. The words and actions and deeds of God go before you. It will be okay. I made it through. You, too, can make it through. It will be okay. Let me show you how I menu planned. It will be okay.”

I think there is no phase of a woman’s life that she cannot learn from an older woman. Sometimes it is absolutely the minutiae of life that rearranges us.

Nancy: Yes.

Donna: It is that tidbit that says, “Here’s how to put a menu together.”

“Oh. Is that how you get it to the table hot at the same time?”

So an older woman is that woman who comes in and gives her life perspective.

I do think you said this earlier, Nancy, and I think it’s extremely important: When you’re looking for a mentor, or you’re looking for a daughter of your heart, which is what I call these young women—daughters of my heart—when you’re looking for that, look for someone who is authentic. Look for someone who is willing to tell you, “I blew it. I was so bad at that. My husband has repeatedly asked me to, and I’ve not been able to.”

I think looking for authenticity in a Christian woman’s life is extremely important in engaging in this kind of relationship. Your sister relationship—she needs to be authentic enough to be vulnerable with you and say, “I blew it here.” Looking for an older women, “I blew it then. God taught me.”

I’ve had young women who’ve come into my life who wanted me to mentor them, and they won’t tell me the whole straight story. I can’t have a relationship with someone like that. I won’t steward my time that way. At some point I say, “Ta ta.”

The book I wrote called Finding a Mentor, Being a Mentor. It talks about those boundaries—how to start it, how to have a point where you stop and assess it.

I think the other thing you bring in is not only authenticity, but the fact that you should be looking for a woman who is not desiring to mentor to meet her need.

Nancy: Yes.

Donna: This is very delicate. But if you had a hard relationship with your daughter, sometimes an older woman is looking for a new daughter, or you had a hard relationship with your mother, sometimes she’s looking for a mother. I say that because I experienced that. I’ve experienced that on both sides.

We had a young woman who lived with us for two years. Kim wanted me to be her mama, and it was so hard not to take that role, but I knew that God had taught me through people like Elisabeth that I needed to tutor Kim to give her my life perspective which was, “Honey, you’ve got to find the answers to these questions with your God, and most importantly, you’ve got to get to a place of reconciliation with your mama. Your mama was not a good mama. That may be true, but you’ve got to find a right relationship with her for yourself. I can’t be your mama. God’s sovereignty does not allow for me to be your mama. I am the older woman in your life. You are a daughter of my heart. You always will be.”

And it was true for me. I was looking for a mama. I wanted someone to mama me because I had not been mama’d, and we have to be careful that we’re not exchanging this precious relationship of a daughter of the heart for a need in our own lives.

So I think we have to be really careful about why we’re looking to mentor or be mentored.

Leslie: Donna Otto has been talking with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth about the value of mentoring. Nancy, I know this topic is near to your heart. And it’s a topic you’ve been thinking a lot about.

Nancy: Leslie, that’s an understatement. For much of the last five years or so, I’ve been studying the book of Titus, preparing to release the brand new book, Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together. Now, the release date is upon us—in just a couple of weeks, February 7. Not only that, but mentoring is the theme of Revive '17, a conference that Revive Our Hearts will be hosting in Indianpolis on September 29–30. Now, you can order the Adorned book on our website, and you can also sign up to attend Revive '17.

But did you know that when you become a Monthly Partner with Revive Our Hearts, you’ll get the new book sent to you as our way of saying "thanks" for joining the team. And you’ll be eligible to get a complimentary registration to Revive '17 as well. Not only that, even more importantly, you’ll also know that you are helping Revive Our Hearts call women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ around the world through your regular support each month. Ministry partners give to this ministry; they pray for us; they share this message with others. And Revive Our Hearts simply could not exist without this important team. I would love to see the Lord raise up several hundred new Ministry Partners in the month ahead.

If Revive Our Hearts has become a part of your life, if it has influenced you and those you love, if it is ministering to you in various ways, then would you consider becoming one of our Ministry Partners? To get all the details on how to do that, visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959. 

Leslie: The world calls you to burn out—even the church world. Donna describes her struggles in this area and explains what to do about it. That’s tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

Join the Discussion