Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Promises You Can Count On

Leslie Basham: When it feels like the world is shifting or falling apart, know that there is one thing that will never change. Here’s Holly Elliff.

Holly Elliff: No matter what season of life I’m in, those promises remain constant. So things that were promised to me when I was twenty-five or thirty, now those promises are still just as true in my life as I’m hitting my sixties. All the way through the decades of my life, God is the constant, and His presence is a promise to me.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned, for July 10, 2019.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Over the last several days, my husband Robert and I had the opportunity to be in Little Rock, Arkansas, doing some meetings and recordings for Revive Our Hearts. And what special memories I’ve experienced during these days.

Some of you may remember that FamilyLife was the ministry that first had the vision to start what became Revive Our Hearts. And for the first eight years of our ministry, from 2001 till almost 2010, we recorded this daily program in Little Rock.

So I had a condo here in Little Rock. I lived here half the year. And it’s just been great fun to be back in the FamilyLife studios and to see some staff I knew years ago and meet some new staff and also to connect with some—well, I was going to say “old friends,” but . . . (laughter) The one here laughing is my longest-time friend, and that’s Holly Elliff.

Holly: Thank you for not saying “oldest friend.”

Nancy: Well, you are one of my old . . . (laughter) longest-time friends. We first met thirty-some years ago when I was serving with Life Action Ministries. Your husband was a pastor in?

Holly: Norman, Oklahoma.

Nancy: Norman, Oklahoma. And so many stories we could tell. We have become dear friends and connected many times over the years. Your husband took a pastorate here in Little Rock, so during those years I was living here, we had the opportunity to spend a lot of sweet time together.

Holly: And for a few years, we were on the road with Life Action. Nancy and I at times shared trailer stories—sometimes through tears.

Nancy: I was living in a motorhome, and your family was living in a fifth wheel trailer pulled by a great big truck, and lots of stories about getting the trailer stuck.

Holly: Oh, yes. And five kids when we started and six kids when we finished. I think we had 580 square feet. So it was interesting.

Nancy: And you had a way of smiling through all of that, even when there were tears. (laughter) You would always come out with a smile. You taught me so much, Holly, about facing life’s circumstances with the grace of God, experiencing God’s grace.

And you’re no stranger to our Revive Our Hearts audience. You’ve been on the broadcast many times. When I knew I was going to be here in Little Rock, I said, “Could we just have a conversation, catch up with Holly?”

So I met with you, found out what’s going on in your life. I’d like to talk about what God is doing in both of our lives in a way that I think will really be an encouragement to our listeners.

Holly: That’s great.

Nancy: When we first met, you had four children, and you now have eight. It’s been a joy to see your family grow, but also a joy to see you grow through different seasons and circumstances of life.

We’ve been talking a lot on Revive Our Hearts over the last several years about Titus 2. And Paul’s instruction to Titus that older women in the church are to model godliness and what sound doctrine looks like in real life. They’re to be examples of that that the younger women can look up to, and then they’re to train the younger women.

So let me just read that passage, and then I want us to just talk about some of those seasons of our lives as younger women, now as older women, what that looks like and how we can be an encouragement to each other as older and younger women.

So I’m reading in Titus, chapter 2. Paul says: “But as for you, (Pastor Titus) teach what accords with sound doctrine.”

Now, the context is, chapter 1, the culture is going crazy. There are false teachers. The government is breathing down the neck of Christians. It’s just an anti-Christian environment. And this tiny, little start-up church is trying to figure out how to survive, much less thrive, must less share the gospel with the whole known world. And what are they to do?

And Paul says, “Here’s what you’re supposed to do: just keep teaching the truth. Keep taking people back to the Word of God. Take them back to sound doctrine.” That sounds really boring to a lot of people, but we’re going to talk about how important that is for our lives and our witness is as Christians.

And then he talks about different demographics—older, younger, men, women, people in different socio-economic strata. And he says, “The older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. And then older women (that’s us now) . . .

Holly: That’s so strange.

Nancy: “Older women, likewise, are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, [why?] that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:2–5).

This stuff really, really matters. So, we’re just going to unpack it out of our walk and our lives.

You know, Holly, I can remember us having conversations, years and years ago, when I first told you my goal in life had always been to be a godly old lady. (laughter) And you would say to me . . .

Holly: I would say to Nancy, “You will get there. You will get to be an old woman.” I never had the desire to be old. So my goal was to stay young and godly. Nancy’s goal was to become an old. Nancy had this long, black shawl thing that she would throw around her. It came to her knees. And even decades ago she looked a little more like an older woman.

Nancy: (laughing) Thank you, Holly.

Holly: Because that was her goal—to get there.

Nancy: But she would say to me, “Don’t rush it. Enjoy the season you’re in.”

Holly: That’s right.

Nancy: You’ve taught me a lot about seasons of life, seasons in a woman’s life, and to be all present, all there in whatever season God has put you.

So we’re going to go down Memory Lane for just a little bit. Think about your life as a younger woman, when you were getting married, starting your family. As you look back on that, what are some of the things that you treasure, that you cherish, that you would say to younger women today, “Don’t miss out on these special parts of this season of life that you’re in right now”?

Holly: And that’s where so many of my children are right now.

Nancy: Exactly.

Holly: The funny thing is my oldest daughters have now become older women to twenty year-olds. They’re calling me, freaking out, because women are coming to them and asking them for advice. Jennifer and Becca are, like, “We’re not ready to be put in the older women category because we think we’re still young even though we’re thirty-eight and forty.” And so, for them, it’s an odd season of life as they’re transitioning a little bit into that season. I can vividly remember thinking, I have nothing to say to anyone—older or younger than me.

And looking back, what I’m so grateful for is that the Lord constantly put me in circumstances that showed me that I could not handle my life on my own because my tendency was to say, “Okay, I’m going to figure this out.” I’m a problem solver.

Nancy: Yes—very practical.

Holly: Yes. So my tendency was to say, “What do I need to do to fix this?” And the Lord was so gracious to constantly put me in circumstances where I could not resolve it myself.

What it did was squeeze me into a path where I had to seek the Lord and that everything I believed about doctrine, about running to Scripture, about the wisdom of God being imparted to my life came out of those years where it was a little bit like a vice as we struggled with being pastors of a large church (just my husband was the pastor—I happened to be married to him). But we struggled with difficulties in that situation and stuff with parents and children and having multiple children.

Life just got where it was pressing in on me, and I was so far beyond my own capacity to think I could solve anything. At that moment, the Lord began to show me . . . Actually, I started taking Precept Ministries’ training and became a student of the Word.

Honestly, I don’t know where I would have been apart from that pressure in my life showing me that apart from God, I could do nothing. So those pressures became precious to me.

Nancy: There are women listening to us have this conversation, and some of them are young women, young moms, and they’re in that vice right now. They’re experiencing crazy pressures. I want you to just encourage that mom who’s in that situation where maybe she’s dealing with parents and children and financial pressures, and stress and strain, and thinking, I can’t get through this hour, much less this day, much less this whole season of my life.

As you look back on how God walked you through those seasons, how would you encourage her?

Holly: We have a mom’s thread that is all the mothers in our family, because the guys got tired of hearing about all our chatter about the mom stuff. And so we started this. We have a family thread, and we have a mom’s thread.

The other night on the mom’s thread, about four of us were texting back and forth, and this was between two and four in the morning . . .

Nancy: When only the moms and the babies were up.

Holly: When only the moms and the babies and me were up. And Mary was just . . . one of her children, the baby, was up all night long crying. She couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. Other sisters and sisters-in-law were adding advice. And Mary finally just said, “I’m still awake, and I have no idea what to do.”

There are so many moments when, as a mom and a wife, where you literally just don’t know what to do. I think those years, for many years of having little children and older children and pressures in my life, those years taught me that the only place I was going to feel safe and secure was in the presence of God.

He taught me that He was with me in the middle of the night when those kids were waking up or circumstances were crazy or I was up working on a project. That’s part of why I’m a late-night person, because the only time I could really get things done was late at night. 

Nancy: After everybody else was in bed.

Holly: Everybody went to bed, and it was quiet for at least—usually, a couple of hours I could count on it being quiet. So I would nurse the youngest child, get them in bed, and then I knew I would have a couple of hours where it was quiet.

And what the Lord did during those years was just assure me that if I would pursue Him, He would be there. And so the moments, especially when we were going through struggles in our church and taking care of my sweet mother-in-law with Alzheimer’s . . . Hers was a very fast-paced, drastic type of Alzheimer’s where she had a lot of paranoia and fear and really abnormal behavior. So I never knew what was coming, and we had little kids at that point.

It was a really tough time in my life. So the time when I felt safe was when I could sit in a chair with my Bible in my lap and just read through the promises of God to me. The amazing thing is that no matter what season of life I’m in, those promises remain constant.

Nancy: Yes.

Holly: So things that were promised to me when I was twenty-five or thirty, now those promises are still just as true in my life as I’m hitting my sixties, which makes my brain crazy to even say that. But, all the way through the decades of my life, God is the constant, and His presence is a promise to me. And so that became so valuable to me.

And now to be able to say to my daughter-in-law and my daughters and other young women that contact me, “You know what? You’re going to be okay. But here’s what it’s going to take, and here’s the choice you have to make: Will I pursue the Lord with all of my heart and my mind and my spirit?”

Nancy: Now, I can see some of those young women thinking, I can’t find time. I have no time for myself to open my Bible and have it on my lap and be able to read the promises of God. How did you find time to do that?

Holly: I lead a mom’s group at our church, and at least once a year we do a little exercise where I hand them a graph that has every hour of every day for a week on it with different categories in different colors at the top. Everybody gets a marker or a crayon in different colors. And I have them map out where their time went in the last week.

Nancy: Not what they had planned, but what actually had happened.

Holly: Yes, what actually happened in their life. And it’s really amazing to look back, even in my own life, to look back at where, not what was in my head about what I think I did last week, but what did I actually do? Where did my time go? And, of course, social media is always much, much larger than we think it’s going to be—and distractions from other things. Even just being out at a store or shopping or being on the phone.

And then, when it comes to time that I actually spent alone with the Lord, that little thin line is always very telling.

Nancy: Yes.

Holly: When I get with a mom, that’s usually where I start. I say, “I understand you have children, they’re consuming, you have a husband, or maybe you’re a single mom.” We have several single moms in our church.

Nancy: Yes.

Holly: Maybe you’re a single mom. And, literally, sometimes it’s all you can do to breathe. But if you’re going to survive these years, that’s going to come from the inside out. You feeding your spirit is more critical than anything else that you’re doing because that’s going to give you what you need to be able to love your children, to be able to follow the Lord with wisdom, to be able to even make decisions out of a sound mind.

Nancy: Yes.

Holly: That’s all going to come from feeding your spirit first. And so sometimes it’s good to just sit down and think, What should be at the top of my list? The thing about tyranny, the urgent, the thing that has to happen . . . The diaper has to be changed. The baby has to be fed. The kids are screaming.

Nancy: And as a mom with those little ones, so many times, basically, your time is not your own.

Holly: Exactly.

Nancy: There are other people that are needing something. You can’t plan when that baby is going to have a meltdown or your husband is going to need this or that.

Holly: Oh no. Exactly. And even multiple ages—you’ve got kids in grade school; you’ve got kids in junior high; you’ve got kids in high school. So teenagers are up late. As my kids got older, I stayed up even later just because I would stay up and chat with them at night. They would go to bed late, and I went to bed a little later.

But the thing is, God is always available. I used to go out to my driveway with my Bible and prop my Bible on the steering wheel of my car. I’ve told moms this as they’ve called me about this. I’ve said to my oldest children, “Okay, if there’s blood, come get me. I’m right here in the driveway.” But even sitting in my car for five minutes . . .

Nancy: It became a tabernacle.

Holly: Yes. And the presence of the Lord restored my soul and allowed me to go on without having major damage going on in my home because my spirit was so frazzled. And so getting to a place of stillness long enough to just hear from the Lord—it could be closing your bathroom door and just saying to your kids, “I’ll be out in a minute.”

Five minutes in the presence of God can change your perspective and your heart and your mind and give you direction.

Nancy: Yes.

Holly: And so many times that’s what we need.

Nancy: You talked about the promises of God. I know recently you’ve been meditating on Proverbs 3:5 and 6, which is a very familiar promise to many of us.

Holly: Yes. Exactly.

Nancy: But it’s been working its way into your heart in a sweet way, and you’re sharing it with other women. Just talk for a moment about how that promise can be applied to this young woman, young family season.

Holly: I love these verses. I’ve fallen more in love with them in the last few weeks as we’re getting ready to have a women’s event and that’s going to be our theme. But for those who don’t remember those verses, it’s, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your path.”

What I love about the Word of God is that, yes, there are weighty, theological passages all through Scripture. But the amazing thing is that so much of God’s Word is really just simple truth. And these verses are simple. We’ve pulled out some key words out of those verses: trust, lean, listen, and follow.

Just a couple of days ago, Timothy, my son that’s kind of an evangelist, loves going downtown on the streets. He brought home, about 11:30 at night, a young man—we’ll call him Ben (that’s not his real name). But at 11:30 at night, I’m sitting there with my jean shorts on and my tee-shirt and studying, and they walk in the door. And Timothy wanted me to meet him and just be able to pray for him.

This young guy had been living on the streets. He has a lot of fear about whether or not God can redeem his life. I just sat down and wrote out that verse for him. I said to him, “Ben, this is so simple. First, ask yourself what you’re trusting in. And then, what are you following? What are you listening to? What do you depend on?”

Nancy: What are you leaning on?

Holly: Yes. “What are you leaning on? What do you depend on to guide your life, to tell you right from wrong, to feed your spirit so that it’s not your brain making decisions—it is coming from the inside out.”

And I love that for any mom in any circumstance, or a young guy off the streets, that same truth is applicable and there’s a promise attached to it if we will do those things, if we will acknowledge the Lord in every circumstance.

Nancy: What do you think that means? What does it look like?

Holly: Well, right now I’m between a women’s event and a wedding coming up on either weekend of my life.

Nancy: And then Nancy comes to town and says, “Can we do some radio?” in the middle of all of that.

Holly: This is fun because this is chatting with a friend at this moment. But what I’ve realized is that, whether I’m in the middle of planning an event or cleaning my house or trying to figure out how to get time with my husband or share truth with another friend or even something as—normal life is planning an event, like a wedding. I can take those things that I’m trying to make decisions about, that I need finances for, that I need direction about, and I can take every single thing to the Lord.

There is nothing that touches my life because God is sovereign. That’s another truth that I learned back in my twenties. If I will trust the sovereignty of God, every single thing that touches my life God has a plan for, and He will answer me when I go to Him.

Now, it may be that the answer is already there in His Word, and if I’m in the Word, I’m going to see that in the passages I’m reading. Or it may be that just when I get still enough, I learn to say to the Lord, “Okay, I have to make this decision about how to alter this wedding dress, and I’m really tired. So, Lord, even tonight as I’m working on this, would You give me wisdom? Would You give me alertness so that I can do a good job? Would You enable me to do things that You placed in my path?”

Sometimes, and this is not mystical or anything, but sometimes it’s just something very practical, and the Lord will either pop a name in my head, and I believe God’s doing that so I can remember to pray for that person without having to carry around a huge long list.

Sometimes I don’t know what to do, literally, I just do not know how to get something accomplished. I find if I will take that thing to the Lord and say, “God, I am clueless about this. Would You give me direction?”

You asked a minute ago what does acknowledge mean—I think it just means that we run to the Lord with every facet of our life. And all the way through Scripture we see God directing those who follow Him to do simply that. Just like a shepherd leading his sheep, if they would just listen to His voice and follow, He would take them on the paths they need to be on.

And God has been so faithful to do that—not just in my twenties or my thirties or my forties, but continually. God has been so faithful to do the things that He has promised to do.

Nancy: We’re listening to Holly Elliff, now an older woman—not an old woman (laughter) but an older woman, sharing wisdom for women of every age and season of life from the promises of God. We’re going to continue this conversation tomorrow, so be sure to join us on Revive Our Hearts as we talk with Holly Elliff.

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and Holly Elliff shared some important truths with us today drawn from Titus chapter 2.

Nancy has written extensively on this passage in her book, Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together. The book will help you further explore God’s design for women as Nancy and Holly discussed today.

We’ll send you a copy of Adorned when you make a donation of any size to Revive Our Hearts. It’s our way of saying “thanks” for helping make this ministry possible.

Visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1–800–569–5959. Be sure to ask for Adorned when you call with your gift.

Nancy and Holly are back tomorrow to talk about finding God’s grace in your moment of need. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is helping you live out the beauty of the gospel. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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

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