Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Dannah Gresh: Donna Otto remembers a stressful time in her life.

Donna Otto: I was involved in too many programs, too many Bible studies, too many too "manys." It had robbed me of any fun spirit at home. Every day, day in and day, out I was too busy getting done everything that needed to be done so that I could be “fun” to the outside world and be a drag to my man.

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, for Tuesday, July 21, 2020. I'm Dannah Gresh.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: We’ve been talking this week with a real live mentor, a woman who’s not afraid to say, “I’m an older woman.” She has been faithful to the Lord and God has given her the joy of seeing the dysfunctional home background that she came out of has given her the chance of starting a new family line of building a home that is based on holy ground, a home for the Lord.

Now she’s challenging and training younger women about how to do this. She’s written a terrific book called, Finding Your Purpose as a Mom: How to Build Your Home on Holy Ground.

And Donna Otto, thank you for being with us on Revive Our Hearts. You’ve been with us before, and we’ve got in the room today a group of younger moms who we’re just kind of sitting at your feet and being challenged and blessed and encouraged, and we’ve been having fun, too.

Donna: We have.

Nancy: You know how to laugh, and that’s one of the things I appreciate about you. I enjoyed reading in your book the emphasis that you placed in your family, and you think families need to place on this whole thing of enjoyment, rejoicing, having fun.

I’m thinking we have some listeners . . . I hear from moms who are very serious and intentional about their families, about doing it right. But sometimes I read their letters and I think, “I’m not sure they’re having any fun doing this.”

Donna: Exactly.

Nancy: That’s not a good thing is it?

Donna: It’s not a good thing. I come to that with great experience because I’m a very serious person. I mean, I remember I was doing some video work and one of my board members put up a sign that said, “Smile.”

And I thought, You know, the Lord has used people to remind me. It’s not that I wasn’t wanting to be cheery or that I didn’t choose cheerfulness. It’s that I’m so serious about the serious side of life that I forget.

Now I’m married to a lawyer, a retired lawyer. So our world lives and works around yellow pads. It’s kind of an Otto family tradition. We all have yellow pads, and we’re all making notes on yellow pads.

My husband and I decided in marriage many years ago that there was the business of marriage. We didn’t like it. Neither one of us liked the business of marriage. We liked the idealism of marriage, the fun of marriage, the love of marriage, but we didn’t like the business of marriage. We tended to let it slip around, so we decided we would meet regularly and talk about the business of marriage.

So one day we meet for lunch, and neither one of us likes these lunches; remember that. That’s sort of the criteria here. But we know it’s right, and we do it. And we do what you said earlier.

Nancy: Just talking about things that need to be worked on in marriage or . . .

Donna: . . . a schedule that needs to be worked out, or how we’re spending the money—major stuff that can always cause trouble.

So he gets to the lunch and he opens up his suit jacket, and he pulls this yellow piece of paper out of this blue, starched shirt, and he unfolds it four times. Then he turns it to the readable side to face me, and it says, “I want more fun.”

I was appalled. If I could have stood up and put my hands on my hips and said, “How dare you?” I would have. Everyone knows that I am fun.

Nancy: Except your husband.

Donna: People invite me to their parties because I am fun! I make people laugh. Now, I’m not funny, but I am fun. My daughter says that there’s the fun barometer when it comes to me. She says when I’m trying to be funny, I can’t get the needle to move. But when I’m interested in having fun, I make people laugh. I know how to have fun.

Now, here’s my husband who tells me he wants more fun. What does that mean?

So he said, “I don’t want to talk about it. I want you to think about it.” Well, that’s even worse. It’s like telling a child, “I’m not angry with you. I’m disappointed.” I wanted to go home.

But I did. I went home, and I said, “Lord what does this mean? You tell me, because you understand the root of it. You know me.”

I was fun with everyone else but at home. I wasn’t fun at home. I was getting the work done. I was keeping everybody in line.

One time at the dinner table I, with the gift of prophecy, said to my daughter who had said something erroneous; I said to her with my finger pointing up at her, “That is a lie from the pits of hell. Replace it with truth.”

There was this pregnant pause at the table. Like, “Did my mother just say that?” And then we all started to laugh. And, of course, it’s an “Otto’s Motto” because there’s a lot of truth to it. “That’s a lie from the pits of hell. Replace it with truth.” What is true about it? But that’s how serious I was at home.

What David was really saying was, “Honey you are fun. People think you’re fun. We used to have fun. Could you tell me what happened to fun in our household and between the two of us?”

I had taken it very seriously, and I was busy at home. Now watch onto this one—I was too busy at home doing things that at that season of my life I should not have been doing.

Nancy: Such as? 

Donna: Ministry in the church. I was involved in too many programs, too many Bible studies, too many too "manys." It had robbed me of any fun spirit at home. At home I could be who I was naturally with the people who live there. And every day, day in and day out, I was too busy getting done everything that needed to be done so that I could be “fun” to the outside world, and I would be a drag to my man.

Now men like fun more than kids like fun, but kids like fun. And kids like fun which really isn’t manufactured. If mamas are listening, mamas don’t buy stuff to have fun. Don’t make plans to “do.” Just sit down and let who you are be who you are to your children.

Nancy: And let your children be who they are to you.

Donna: Exactly. I think you do that about as intentionally as you do other things in life Nancy. I find myself with young children, I don’t intend to do anything with them. I just plan to sit there.

Years ago I heard this little vignette about a relationship with Jesus. A woman who sat two hours every day in the church—didn’t read, didn’t study, didn’t sing, didn’t kneel, didn’t speak, just sat there. And the custodian said to her after two months of watching her do this, “What are you doing?”

And she says, “I look at Jesus, He looks at me, and we look at each other.”

When I met David that’s what I did. I looked at him. I just looked at him. He is the most handsome, dark haired, deep mustached, so smart. I looked at him; I was so happy just to look at him. And he was happy to look at me, and we were happy just looking at each other.

What happens to that? I think we need to cultivate that. That is being in the presence of someone that you love just for being in the presence.

Nancy: Without any agenda.

Donna: No agenda. No “to-doing.” We don’t have to get up and get dressed and go somewhere.

Now some women who are listening have husbands who like to get up and go and do. My man really likes to sit. He likes to do whatever casual thing we’re doing together. But he likes me to be free to do it with him. And I wasn’t free, and I wasn’t any fun.

Nancy: And for a lot of women that feels like, “I’m not being productive. I’m not getting anything checked off my list.” But it is productive.

Donna: It is. And if that’s who your man is particularly, you need to be conscious of that.

So ask yourself before your husband asks you, “I want more fun.” Before he makes note of the fact that he’s not having any fun. I’m very conscious of it. 

I get in a deadline for a book, even now I’m very conscious of the fact that I can go out to my office and hide out there for hours. My man calls life fun if I’m with him and we can do and laugh over together.

The other thing about fun is creating things that build a language between you and your husband, between you and your family. We have “Otto-isms” at our house that no one in the world would understand except us. We don’t want them to understand. They’re “Otto-isms.”

My husband and I have a secret love language—it belongs to the two of us—that we have cultivated. And that’s the part that you do in that fun time. I mean, it sounds like I’m speaking out of two sides. It’s something you let happen when you have time to be with the man you love.

Did I always feel love for David? No. No, I’ve not always felt love for David. Any woman who’s been married longer than two months can say, “I wish I had never seen this man before.” I’m not ashamed to say that at all. It is the honest truth of my heart. I have kept my commitment. I am confident of God’s plan in our lives. I love this man, but I have not always felt love toward him.

That day when he said, “I want more fun,” I realized that there was a side of my life that I could easily let get sucked up by other things. And David is still singularly the most important earthly relationship I have. 

So create places where fun can happen, and not just celebrations between the two of you.

Jim Dobson has been an important leader in our country to talk to us about intentionally creating memories and celebrations.

Nancy: And his wife, Shirley, has been a huge part of making that happen in their family.

Donna: Exactly. She wrote that book about creating memories. I recommend it. If you don't know how to do that, and I didn't know how because I didn't come from that in my growing-up years.

So how do you make merry in your home? How do you have fun? How do you create a language? There are some really practical things you can do to do that and creating celebrations that are repetitive.

Nancy: Traditions.

Donna: Traditions. When my daughter was four years old, we lived in the city of Chicago. We went to the pizzeria to get our pizza, not have it delivered; we went. So it’s cold. It’s wintertime. I get in the front seat of the car, and I’m driving. I put that pizza to the passenger seat and the smell of that pizza is wafting through that heated up car with the cold outside.

And I couldn’t resist it. I pulled up the lid. I took out a slice of the pizza pie and took a big bite out of it. I put the pizza pie piece back in the pizza, put the lid back down, got home, put it on the table. And my four-year-old daughter with her big brown eyes said, “Ah! Mommy somebody 'bited' our pizza.”

And in that moment I thought, Here’s a tradition coming.

I think it’s when you say, “How do we create a language that belongs to the Otto family?” We’ve been taking a bite out of the pizza for thirty-one years. We’re still taking a bite out of the pizza. “Mama somebody 'bited' our pizza.” It’s an Otto tradition.

Now that’s not a secret one obviously; I’ve just told it. But there’s a language that happens within a family, and I think the mama helps that.

So don’t get too busy that you don’t have time to be free of your thinking. Is this a moment? Is this an idea? Then when you hear your kids say, “We always do it that way at our house,” and you scratch your head and say, “That’s the first time we did that.” Kids have a sense about taking propriety interest in something they do in their family.

So don’t wait until your husband says, “I want more fun.” Be a woman of merry heart. Eat, drink, and be merry. And He has given us everything to enjoy.

Nancy: So are you a rejoicing woman? Will your children remember you as a joyful mother of children as Psalm 113 says? Your children are not going to be as impressed, nor is your husband, by all the things you checked off your to-do list or how perfectly kept your home was, though a sense of order and peace will bless them too. But what an important thing for them to remember.

I had a mom who enjoyed God, enjoyed us, enjoyed living, rejoiced in every good thing God gave us. I think that quality of joy is something that in some families that are doing a lot of right things is really missing.

You know what? Joy is a fruit of the spirit. It’s not something you manufacture because life isn’t always joyful. Life isn’t always joyous. But it’s something that God, by the power of His Spirit within you, can make a part of your heart, can give you a merry heart, a joyful heart.

So you may just want to pray now, “Lord make me a joyful woman.” And that means being a fun wife to your husband. Your husband needs to have fun with you. Remember what it was like when you were courting, before you had children?

You may need to pull out some of those memories and ask God to give you some fresh memories and to help you make some joyful celebrations and traditions that your kids will look back on and maybe even put into their families someday.

Dannah: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been talking with Donna Otto on the balance between tasks and fun. When Donna counsels women, she sometimes has them draw stick figures in a simple house. The exercise helps women set priorities.

This interview was recorded in pre social-distancing days. One of our listeners is thinking through this exercise and wondering how to continue investing in the life of a daughter about to leave the nest.

Woman: If you saw my picture on my refrigerator, you’d see that there’d be twelve little stick figures there. God gave us one also. She graduated from high school a few weeks ago, and we’re so delighted about what God’s going to do in her life as she goes off to college.

But I wondered what you might speak to a person who is in a place where I don’t want to cover. It’s a place of grief because it is final. I don’t get another chance to work on where I’m at. But there’s a tremendous amount of joy coupled with that.

I just wondered what kind of word you might give in the transition time as I reflect on our home and what that’s going to look like because my husband is in that same place of grief.

Donna: We had dropped off our daughter at college—she was seventeen years old. It was a choice that we had agreed on when she was little to advance her education, and she jumped a grade. The day we dropped her at college, after the weekend events of the college she attended, we got in the van to get home. We mourned our decision. We mourned our daughter. My husband cried so hard at one point he had to pull the van off the road so he could have a good sob. Been there. Been there, done that, and I understand. I think it’s natural.

Now I want to say to you with a little finger wagging, “Don’t forget you’re the mama.” Okay? You’re the mama, the more mature one. So you have to find the balance that says to this sweet, cherubic daughter of yours, “I love you. I’ll miss you unbelievably, but this is what is right for your course of life.” And you have to say that and mean it because she knows the difference.

You have to mean, “I’m going to miss you dreadfully,” because if you buck up and act big and strong about it, she’ll think, Well, they’re just glad I’m gone.

We bought a new little kitchen table when our daughter left for college just for the two of us. And she came home for the first time and saw the big table gone and the little table. And she said, “Well, what happened here?”

And I said, “A new season in life honey.”

She looks back on it now and says, “Mama, I’m so glad you and daddy had a life of your own. You took such responsibility off of me because I was an only child.” So there’s a tension there.

The last thing I want to tell you God is a God of returning stolen property. He is a redemptive God. The things you didn’t teach her you wished you had, which every woman feels that loss. “Oh, I wish I had . . .”

Sometimes we get it seven years early. We think, Oh, I only have seven years left. I only have four years left. I only have two years left. God is a God of redemption and returning stolen property. You don’t know that you’re not going to get another chance. You have to trust God. You may get another chance.

Children today are coming home to live back home far more often. You may have another chance that's real. You may be wishing she didn’t come back home. Our daughter did. She came back home and lived with us again two different times. She married late in life.

The other thing is remember that God still is the sovereign God who knows what she needs to learn. And you have to subjugate your desire to be the one to teach it to her. You may not be the one, sweetheart. God may send me to teach it to her. Your heart has to be, “It doesn’t matter who teaches it as long as she gets it.”

So keep praying for the missing elements, the things you missed, the things you’ve learned. For me that was huge. I learned a lot of things about myself after our daughter was grown and gone. And I thought, If I’d only known this about myself before, how will she ever know? Well, she knows.

Now as two adults talking to each other, I can tell her a lot of things about what I learned as an adult, and she has ears to listen to it. She does love to hear me tell about my journey because she is part of me. She is the daughter of my womb and not the daughter of my heart.

I hope that encourages you. Know that there are a lot of us who have walked that road; women always will. That’s the nurturing nature of a child who we call child. It’s God’s precious gift He gives to us to teach and train and mother for our lives and different seasons of it.

Woman: Were there some specific things that you did at that juncture though? I feel like the Lord wants me to not stop what I’m doing currently in ministry but not to take on anything new for the next six months just so I have a chance to hear the Lord’s voice rather than to seek it with emotion.

It seems like I have some vultures flying around me that would love to occupy my time. I’m kind of stepping back from that and not just jumping in with both feet.

Donna: I celebrate that. I would say, “Amen.” You’re doing the right things. Don’t busy up your life. Busyness is often barrenness. You’re not replacing your daughter with a ministry task. You’re not. You’re not going to. You should not even try to. The treasure of having a daughter who has come and gone is a treasure that belongs to you. Enjoy it. Treasure it.

Grieve through it. Read through Lamentations every morning instead of once a month and understand the grieving process and what it means. There is a grief.

I wrote an article, "Who Will Eat the Pickles?" I got home from that trip leaving her at college. We have these pictures of the two of us sobbing, just red-eyed, tears, no makeup. My husband was pulling us apart. She wasn’t ready to leave either. She was just too young.

And when I got home there were the pickles. I opened up the refrigerator, and I went, “No one will ever . . .” Well, she was home six weeks later and ate the pickles. I mean, it’s a mother’s heart. Go through it. Enjoy it. Revel in it. Tell your best friend how much you miss her and cry together. Don’t try to pretend it isn’t there.

Nancy: We have in this room today and we have listening two kinds of women—those who need to be mentored and those who should be mentoring or maybe both. Depending what your season of life is, let me just ask, “Are you at a season of life where you should be reproducing in the next generation?”

Let me say to you older women, one of the saddest things I hear from younger women is this statement: I desperately want and need someone to mentor me, but the older women don’t seem to want to do that.

I don’t know why that is. I think sometimes it’s because the older women are afraid or feel like, “This is more than I could handle. This is more than I could do.”

Let me say you don’t have to have a seminary degree. You don’t have to be a genius. You don’t have to have lived a stellar life to be a godly mentor. You have to have a humble heart and a willingness to come alongside and take someone’s hand and say, “Let me just help point you to God in practical areas of your life.”

So to you older women let me just encourage you. Step out in faith. Realize God has put you in this season of life for a purpose. You want to fulfill God’s purpose at this season of your life and that is not to sit and do what Donna said in the last session, underwater macramé, whatever that is, or some of the things that may be frittering your life away. God’s not giving any of us very many years on this earth. Use this season of your life to be investing in the next generation.

Then if you’re a younger woman, maybe a young wife, a young mom, a single woman, ask the Lord to direct you to an older woman who can encourage you in your faith, point you to Christ, pray for you, pray with you. Learn to ask questions.

I ask questions everywhere I go of older women. Teach me. Help me understand. And I’ve learned so much and am still learning so much from the older women God has brought into my life.

Sometimes it’s through readings. Sometimes it’s through listening to their messages. Sometimes it’s from one-on-one relationships. Ask God, “Who do you want to mentor and who do you want me to mentor when it comes to that season of life?”

Dannah: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been challenging us to pray for chances to develop friendships with other women—the type that will grow our friendship with the Lord.

Earlier we heard from Donna Otto on the value of mentoring. That may seem more difficult in our post-coronavirus days, but I assure you, it's still just as necessary.

One way to help you think through the whys and hows of mentoring is by getting a copy of Nancy’s book Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together. It’s an excellent study of everything the Bible says about older women teaching younger women.  

This week, it’s the way we’re thanking you for your donation of any size to support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. Of course, all month long we’ve also been letting you know about The Little Red Book of Wisdom, so you actually have a choice when you donate this month. Give your gift, then let us know which book you’re interested in receiving, Adorned or The Little Red Book of Wisdom, and there's a third option, You Can Trust God to Write Your Story.

To contact us with any questions or to make a donation, go to, or call 1–800–569–5959.

Well, do you ever find yourself thinking of your husband as an enemy? Donna Otto helps you battle that temptation tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts. Please be back.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to facilitate godly mentorship. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.


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About the Teachers

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.