Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: In order to listen, we need to stop talking. It sounds simple, right? Here’s Donna Otto.

Donna Otto: My husband is a man who has very important things to say. He is very bright. He’s very deep. He’s very thoughtful. And if I talk too much . . . he’s wonderful to listen to me, but I don’t hear what’s in his heart.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, May 16th.

Last week we heard how a simple line drawing of a house greatly affected Donna Otto’s life. It helped her decide what qualities she wanted in her home, and she has spent the rest of her life cultivating them.

She’ll tell us more about it as she continues her conversation with Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We’re talking with Donna Otto this week. She’s the author of a book called Finding Your Purpose as a Mom. Donna, I want to thank you for writing that book and for joining us here this week on Revive Our Hearts.

Donna: Thank you. It’s great to be with you.

Nancy: Donna, our listeners can’t see this, but you’ve handed to each of us women in the room a piece of paper here with a simple line drawing of a house. Tell us how we can use this tool to put on paper the picture, the plan that God gives us for our home.

Donna: Well, it is a tool, and tools are very important to our progress. It’s setting a goal, which we’ve prayed over. It’s preparing something that we can move into our action steps.

So the first thing I would say is, make two line drawings. Give one to your husband, and then synthesize them. Distill it down to a bite-sized plan for your family. Plan into that the kinds of character traits you want your children to have.

Will your home be (certainly) a home led by God? Maybe that’s a cross at the top of it. Do you hope to have six children? (I had six little stick figures, but I only had one child.)

So decide the things, and then synthesize it down. Distill it into one. Have that piece of paper with the line drawing laminated. Put it on your refrigerator.

Allow that to be the hallmark of your household. Let people walk by it, as they always walk by pictures on the refrigerator. “Oh, this is an unusual house. In this house they’ve laid out a plan for what they’d like their home to look like.”

The children will read it, as they grow of reading age, and say, “My parents have very intentionally planned for what our home will look like, for how the children will be raised.”

And then celebrate what God has caused you to do. Rejoice along the way, and don’t be discouraged when you’re looking at a very chaotic day and you think, “I thought we planned to have peace in our house!”

These days will happen, but rejoice along the way for the steps that you’re making, and be patient with it as God gives you the grace to grow in it.

Nancy: Some of the things that you’ve put alongside this line drawing you’ve given us, Donna, from your plan, are hospitality, support, learning, celebration, fun, meals together . . . that’s a novel idea.

Donna: Yes it is.

Nancy: Stimulating conversation, laugher . . . that’s a godly thing to want in your home. In your book Finding Your Purpose as a Mom, you talk about how these different things can be cultivated in your family; because I think these are things that most women want and that God wants for our homes.

Now, I want to come back to something you mentioned in our last session, something you had on your plan. You wanted your home—and you wanted to be intentional about this—to be a place of peace.

Donna: You’re smiling. You like it. Say you like it. (laughs)

Nancy: I’d like to experience it.

Donna: I think, perhaps because I came from such chaos, there was a hunger for calm. Calm to me is a part of that promise that God has given us that He gives us a peace that’s different than the peacefulness of the world.

Nancy: I think that’s something most of us want in our own hearts, in our physical environment, in our relationships. But, Donna, it doesn’t just happen, does it?

Donna: I don’t know where we became believers of “this is just all going to happen while I lie around and watch Oprah and suck my thumb and read a book and go to the mall.”

Nancy: Of course, some women would say, “I’m not sitting around watching Oprah and sucking my thumb. I am working hard. I am working my head off. That’s why things aren’t peaceful and calm, because I’ve got those six kids who were once stick figures and now they’re real. Now we really have them.”

There’s a feeling, with all that’s going on in our lives and in our homes, how can they be peaceful and calm?

Donna: Well, I use those illustrations, but . . . oftentimes we’re working very hard, but we’re not working in the right direction. And that causes the same effect.

So the peacefulness and the calm that I’m talking about come from, again, within me. Anne Ortlund said, “Are you the kind of woman, when you walk into the room you say, ‘Oh, here I am!’ Or are you the kind of woman, when you walk into the room, that says, ‘Oh, there you are!’”

That’s an attitude that I bring into my home—I bring into the breakfast time, I bring into the evening meal, I bring into the evening activities, I bring into the relationship with my husband. I choose calm or I choose chaos.

Yes, I know there are a lot of little children and dogs and pets and the roof is leaking. That comes into it, but it isn’t a matter of the circumstances. It’s a matter of the conviction in which I’ve chosen to live my life.

I think being a circumstance-driven woman versus a conviction-driven woman has a lot to do with the calm in my home. I choose to have calm in my spirit by the things I choose to do for myself. And I choose to let my circumstances—which could bring chaos . . . instead I’m going to let them bring calm.

Now, I know that we all use a thermometer to register body temperature, like when a child is sick. A thermometer registers what’s going on.

I can walk into a room and tell you if it’s an angry room, if it’s a noisy room, if this is a happy room, if people are making merry in this room and having fun in this room. Anybody can do that.

The difference is that I want to be the kind of woman, because I’m conviction-driven, not circumstance-driven, that I become the thermostat and I say, “I set calm. I set merriment.”

So it’s an intentionality that I first do for myself, and that includes my time with God; that includes the choices I make. I know for myself that if I get so busy . . . Elizabeth Prentiss said that if anything in life makes me have too much hurry and flurry and I am out of order, I know then that I’m doing too much. I’ve said yes to too many things. I know that about myself.

Now I take charge of myself, and I say, “I will not do that many things because that many things causes me to be chaotic, and then I cause the people I’m responsible to to be chaotic.” That’s true in an office. That’s true in a party environment. It’s certainly true in the home environment as a wife and mother.

Nancy: What are some practical choices that you have made to help you keep a calm heart in a stressful world?

Donna: I’m a dinosaur when it comes to technology, and I take a lot of flack for it. People want me to get an e-mail address, to get a fax machine, to get those things so they can be instantly in touch with me. Our culture says 24/7 is a great way to live. I don’t think God’s Word says that to me.

I’ve looked at the Scripture. If anything, He talks about the rhythm of rest. And the rhythm of rest included a whole day set aside for a rhythm of rest.

Okay, we’re not talking about Old Testament Sabbath where we don’t turn a light switch on because that’s work; but are we building—because I’m in charge of these choices—a rhythm of rest?

One of the things I did was build a rhythm of rest into my life, and it was not easy.

Nancy: How did you do that?

Donna: Well, what I literally did was take a day out of the week. I crossed off Wednesdays. It took me two full years to be able to do that. Now, my children were grown and gone and I had the freedom of that schedule.

But I say this to young women, and they say, “I could never do this.” Then I say, “Do you get a babysitter to go out? Well, then you can get a babysitter to find a four-hour break with God for rhythm and rest.”

So that’s a choice I made. I began to know myself well enough that I could feel the “jitteries” coming. If I drink too much coffee, if I’m around too many people—I’m very stimulated by people—I can become “coffee mouth” and talk incessantly.

My family does not like it when I talk incessantly. One of the reasons is because they have very important things to tell me, and if I’m talking, I’m not listening.

A practical thing I had to do for myself: I had to be home when my daughter came home from school.

My daughter’s 35 now and a mother, married, and creating her own home. She’s a Bible teacher, and she was teaching a series on the Psalms, and she said, “God listens to us.” She said, “Mom, as I was telling that story out of the Psalms about God listening to us, I remembered the hours that you would sit at the kitchen counter and listen to me.”

When she came home from school, she talked ad nauseam. “Well, then we went over there to the locker and then she said and he said. . . .” And if I dared say, “Honey, who is the ‘she’ we’re talking about?” because it was so many pronouns ago I couldn’t remember, she would say, “Mom, you’re not listening!”

So I would listen ad nauseam. If I’m talking, I can’t be listening. Those were really important times for her. Do I remember all the details? I don’t. But I chose, by virtue of my choices, to be home.

My husband is the kind of man who has very important things to say. He is very bright. He’s very deep. He’s very thoughtful. And if I talk too much . . . he’s wonderful to listen to me, but I don’t hear what’s in his heart.

I have to pause long enough and set a stage for him. I have to set a stage for him. That’s who he is. That’s the man I live with.

I used to laughingly say, “It took him an hour to warm up before he would say something important.” He never liked my saying that, but it was true, and I had to learn that about him. So I just said, “I have to know the people I live with.”

Our audience, these women here today, everyone has a different family set. They have to know their people well enough to know what it will take to bring calm.

The TV running in the background—we’ve become so accustomed to noise—or CDs or music . . . what is it that we need to shut down? Our culture is really creating within us a noise factor that is always present.

Nancy: So let me bring us to a takeaway from what we’ve just heard from Donna. When it comes to your role in your home, are you a thermometer or a thermostat?

A thermometer registers the temperature. When the temperature goes up, the thermometer goes up—always responding, reacting to circumstances. So when somebody in your home is having a chilly attitude, that controls your attitude. That’s being a thermometer.

Or are you a thermostat, setting the temperature in your home by your spirit? It’s saying, “From within I’m going to let God give me a calm spirit, a joyful spirit, a trusting spirit, a loving spirit, a gracious spirit,” being filled with the Spirit of God and letting Him control you so that your life creates and adjusts the temperature in your home.

And isn’t it true that, to a large extent, we women really do set the climate in our homes? You know the old phrase: “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” So what kind of temperature, climate, are you setting in your home?

Leslie Basham: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss talking with Donna Otto about creating a home full of peace. We heard about one tool that affected Donna. She used a simple line drawing of a house.

You can download Donna’s drawing free by visiting www. ReviveOurHearts.com. That’s also where you can get a copy of Donna’s book Finding Your Purpose as a Mom when you make a donation of $20 or more to Revive Our Hearts.

When you order you’ll also get a bookmark printed with some of “Otto’s Mottos,” helpful sayings collected by Donna Otto.

Since this is the last day in our series with Donna, I’ll mention that you can order the whole conversation on CD. You can bring home the practical wisdom of Donna Otto by visiting our website or by calling 800-569-5959.

Tomorrow Nancy will tell us about a psalm that you’ve probably heard over and over throughout your life. She’ll give us some insights that you’ve probably never heard before. I hope you can be back for Revive Our Hearts .

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

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

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