Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Creating a Peaceful Home

Leslie Basham: Donna Otto grew up in a rough environment. Those who invited her into their home had no idea what kind of influence they were having.

Donna Otto: I felt a sense of peacefulness that was so tangible to me. I saw beauty in homes. I remember going to a home once, and I walked in and there were pictures on the wall. I thought, “People put pictures on their walls?!”

Leslie Basham: It’s Monday, May 8th, and you’re listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We’re delighted to welcome to Revive Our Hearts this week my new friend, Donna Otto. Some of you have read her books. You’ve heard her speak, perhaps years ago on Gateway to Joy with Elisabeth Elliot.

Donna is a wife; she’s a mom; she’s a lover of the Lord and a lover of home. She’s a speaker and an author and a home management consultant and some other things we could throw in there.

Donna, thank you so much for being a part of Revive Our Hearts this week. We’re just glad to have you joining in.

Donna Otto: Thank you. Do I do all those things?

Nancy: (laughing) Well, that’s what your bio sketch says.

We are also joined today with about, oh, 30 or 40 women here in the studio so that we can have a chance for some interaction. We want to learn from you.

Donna: Thank you.

Nancy: You’re at a season of life where you have a vision for training and teaching and passing on God’s heart to the next generations as it relates to home.

Let’s talk about home for a moment—over 600 references in the Scripture to house or home or dwelling. Why does home matter so much to God?

Donna: I think the essence of home is being shuffled under the rug in our culture. Yes, the Scripture refers to home 600 times. But we have a misconception of home, and in this book I’ve tried to make home more aligned with what the Scripture says.

Home starts with me. It starts with my heart and my relationship with the Father. Maybe the first thing I would say is that I came from a very barren home. By that I mean it was barren of physical comfort. It was barren of emotional comfort. It was barren of spiritual comfort.

Nancy: So you didn’t really grow up having a model of what God’s kind of home looked like.

Donna: I grew up with the opposite; and the Lord used that in my life, as He uses everything. I think at some point in our lives we are free enough to say, “Thank You, Lord, for all that You gave me, even the hard stuff.”

I had plenty of hard stuff, which allowed me to not only get into God’s Word, but to look around and watch how families other than my family lived life.

Nancy: Let me just say that a lot of people coming from the kind of background you did would feel like that’s the only kind of home they will ever have themselves and they’re hopelessly stuck in this cycle or this pattern.

Your life is really an example: There can be a whole new family line established regardless of how barren your home of origin may have been.

Donna: Absolutely. Not only is it possible, I think it lights a fire in us when we understand that this is God’s plan. It’s His principles laid out in the Scripture—this is what He wants family life and home life to look like.

It lights a fire saying, “I will, with His help—never alone.” I don’t think I can say that enough. I think sometimes I get to talking, and I forget to say that. I should say it at the end of every sentence. With Christ I have done these things, because there is no way . . . especially added to the fact that I come from this barren existence.

My parents were not married when I was conceived. I was three years old before my father knew that I was born. He got in his hot, fast, red car, drove to California, swept my mother off her feet again, married her, and brought her back to Chicago. They had another child.

His religious experiences were in the Roman Catholic Church. They took me to a Roman Catholic Church when I was 8 or 9 years old. Their marriage was disintegrating. My mother found an independent church in the city of Chicago and took us there.

So I’m now ten years old, and this is all I’ve seen of family. My grandfather would not let me live with my mother and my grandmother—I had to stay someplace else. So I lived with two spinster women the first three years of my life.

So everything I had seen was devoid of what Christ talks about for a family. Now I go to this little church. I’m a wide-eyed, wondered, ugly little duckling—big eyes, skinny, wild and crazy hair. I’m beginning to look at families in the church who are trying really hard, with God’s help, to live life the way He called them to.

I saw mamas and papas sitting in church together. I saw mamas and papas talking to each other without screaming and yelling. I saw families being families—mamas and papas and little children.

I went to some of their homes and I felt a sense of peacefulness that was so tangible to me. I saw beauty in homes. I remember going to a home once, and I walked in and there were pictures on the wall. And I thought, “People put pictures on their walls!” Flowers—not only fresh but artificial.

I saw things . . . there was a whole litany of things that I began to see and observe. And what I felt was their inclusion of me.

Nancy: So you were experiencing family, really for the first time.

Donna: . . . in the Body of Christ. I was truly an ugly duckling. People say, “You shouldn’t say that about yourself. You look pretty good.” And I always say, “Well, I do the best with what I have, but I had a lot less then.” And I did.

By the time I was 16 years old, I was 5’ 6” tall and weighed 89 pounds. We were dirt poor. I had no clothes. I had very wild, crazy, kinky hair. When I went into that church, by what would be the normal acceptance factor criteria, I didn’t have it. They wouldn’t have taken me in. I was an ugly duckling, a bus kid from a barren home.

Nancy: But they did take you in.

Donna: They did. They not only took me in, they included me in a way that was demonstrated in a felt, tangible way.

When I was 12 or 14 I could never have said, “Wow, these are cool people. These people like me! Certainly these people are including me.” None of that was obvious to me at any level except a felt level.

I was given recitations at the Christmas program and the Easter program. Someone paid for my camp experiences. It was a powerful learning tool to see what Christ really meant and what the Word of God really meant about family and home life.

Then, when I was nearly 16 years old, I had this experience in my church, literally in the basement of our church, with a youth speaker who talked about making our home with Christ—letting God be in charge. Powerful concept to a girl who came from a broken, barren home.

No one was in charge of anything in my life anywhere, and those who took charge took it with bad authority and didn’t handle it carefully and were abusive with it. So now this young man is saying, “God, the God of the universe, wants to be a part of your life and be in charge of your life.”

Wowsa! Yes, please! Thank you very much! I wanted someone to be in charge of my life, and Someone who I had now been acquainted with because I had heard the stories, the accounts—Jonah and the whale, Joseph and the coat of many colors. These stories, the accounts in the Old Testament in particular, were a part of my life.

Nancy: And you had seen the love of God in the families.

Donna: Yes, and I had memorized large portions of Scripture in exchange for chocolate candy bars. My Sunday School teacher rotted out my teeth but really instilled the Word of God, and I’m still grateful. I’m still grateful.

So that was the beginning for me, and it really . . . We do have to pause long enough, Nancy, when we talk about being intentional and creating a home—what is our former image of home? What do we bring into married life? What expectations do we have?

Then we have to take those expectations and subjugate them to the Scripture. Because some expectations we have are really fostered by the culture. They’re about the monetary; they’re about the size of a home. You know, nowhere in the Scripture does it say we should own a home. It’s the American dream that says, “Be landowners.”

Should we own it? Sure, if we can. But should we own a home at the cost of our children or at the cost of our marriage, at the cost of working full-time and being so stressed out that we have no time to build a relationship first with the Father and then with our family?

So I think we have to come into looking at how to build a home with all that backdrop. Who are you? Where did you come from? In my case I was really driven as a young woman to create something different. I remember my husband saying, “Honey, we can’t create any more memories at our house. That’s enough.” So I think we need to take that backdrop.

Nancy: I think you can tell that Donna is going to challenge us in this series to a counter-cultural view of family and home. Your life, your home, your relationships in the Body of Christ and as a family are having a larger impact on other people than you ever realize.

I want to ask you this question: Does your family, your marriage, your children, your relationships within your home (and even if you’re a single woman, your relationships within the Body of Christ) . . . what would they say to a young kid coming into your church with no frame of reference for family or God or God’s family? Does your life make people have a sense of the family of God?

Your relationships—this is the power of home. It’s not just something for us to enjoy, for us to experience; but it’s a mission that God has us on to reflect to the little girls, the Donna Ottos, when she was that gawky eight-year-old girl without hope and without God. God put her in the context of families to show her what He is like and to draw her into His family.

Let’s pray.Thank You, Lord, for what You’ve done in Donna’s life, and for that church You put her in, for those families. She may not even know today who many of those families were, but they were an instrument of grace in her life.

And I thank You, Lord, for the families that You’ve used in each of our lives to point us to Christ and to give us a hunger and a thirst for You and for Your family. I pray that You’d make our homes places that reflect Your glory.

And then, Lord, I want to pray for someone listening right now who has come from perhaps a background similar to Donna’s and just needs to let it go, to say, “That’s the past, but it doesn’t have to be my future.”

Thank You that You’re a God who redeems broken, messed-up lives and families, a God who is making all things new. Would You do that in the life of someone or ones who are listening even this day? For Jesus’ sake I pray, amen.

Leslie Basham: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss praying for you and me. Isn’t it amazing that God can use our homes to change someone’s life?

You can continue to learn from our guest, Donna Otto, by reading her book Finding Your Purpose as a Mom. Sections of the book are titled “Making Your Home a Place of Love and Peace,” “Making Your Home a Place of Growth,” and “Making Your Home a Place of Service.”

If that sounds like the type of home you’d like to have, I hope you’ll get a copy of the book Finding Your Purpose as a Mom when you visit our website. You can order it for a suggested donation of $20 or more. We’ll include a bookmark listing some of “Otto’s Mottos.” You’ll hear more about these wise sayings over the next few days.

Again, visit www. ReviveOurHearts.com. If you’d like to call instead, use this number: 800-569-5959.

When she was young, Donna Otto drew a picture of a house, and that picture has affected her to this day. Find out why tomorrow, when she joins us again for Revive Our Hearts .

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

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