Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Dannah Gresh: Donna Otto says, "Your spouse is not your enemy."

Donna Otto: The enemy is the ruler of this world who wants you to believe that your husband is an enemy instead of a sinner just like you. Elisabeth Elliot taught me that I married a sinner. She got me all riled up one day telling me how much David was a sinner, and I was going, “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” and then calmly she said, “And he married a sinner, too.”

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Adorned, for Wednesday, July 22, 2020. I'm Dannah Gresh.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: We’ve been talking this week with Donna Otto who’s an author, a speaker.

We’ve had a lot of fun, haven’t we, Donna?

Donna: Yes, we have.

Nancy: You’ve been so honest and authentic. Thank you for sharing out of your life. Thank you for mentoring so many women. The Lord has put women into your life to mentor you, and now you’re sharing with the next generation including about thirty women who have been in the room with us this week, and we’ve so appreciated that.

Donna is the founder of a ministry called Homemakers By Choice [note: website is now]. If you go to our website, we’ll have a link to the website for There are some terrific resources available, small groups that can be started where women can encourage and support one another in practical ways as women, wives, moms, keepers at home.

The whole curriculum is built around Titus chapter 2, and there’s a lot more there than what we’ll talk about in these few moments. I encourage you to check out

We’ve been talking about Donna’s newer book Finding Your Purpose as a Mom: How to Build Your Home on Holy Ground. Donna, one of the things I enjoyed as I read that book was you have little boxes throughout. They are little quotes that are set apart, and they’re called “Otto’s Mottos.” Now, with a name like Donna Otto, I guess it was inevitable that we would have “Otto’s Mottos.” How did you come to have these mottos?

Donna: Thank you. So few people appreciate that.

Nancy: Oh, they’re terrific.

Donna: My husband said, “You didn’t!” I said, “Oh honey, I did—Otto’s Mottos.”

The idea comes out of this strong principle that I was taught many years ago: Try in everything I do and everything I teach to make sure that it is credible, workable, and memorable.

Now, I really have a very simple mind. I always say to my husband, “I’m slow with new concepts.” He says it makes me look like I’m not so bright, and it doesn’t matter because I’m not so bright. It’s just that I know that repeat, repeat, repeat works. I know that for me if I can keep a complicated concept simple, I’m more apt to remember it.

Out of the Deuteronomy passage when He says write it on your hands, when I was a young mother learning how to keep home, I used to write “focus” on my hands so I could read it myself. I still write things on my hands to help me remember someone I’m praying for today.

So—credible, workable, and memorable—the Otto’s Mottos, with the last name like Otto, it began.

I think the first Otto’s Motto had to do with our little girl. We were trying to encourage her to eat well-balanced meals, to try new things, to be broad and not narrow. We did not want a child who grew up and said, “The only thing I’ll eat is macaroni and cheese” when we went to someone’s home. So we were very diligent about that. We said, “You have to try things.” So I would say to her, “Honey, eat it first, and eat it fast.”

Nancy: The thing you don’t want to eat, eat it first and make it fast.

Donna: Exactly. I think that might have become the first Otto Motto.

Nancy: That applies actually to some other things—just like hard tasks at home or at . . .

Donna: . . . keep going. Just about pretty much everything in life.

Nancy: Right.

Donna: Do it first and do it fast. We want to do the hard things last. We want to do the easy things. Do the hard things first. Do them fast. By that I mean, stay focused on them and get them done.

Nancy: Get those peas down.

Donna: Exactly. Eat the peas, and get it done.

Then I end almost with every lesson I ever teach with this phrase, which was something my husband and I built into a life goal for the two of us, which was: Finish strong. Out of finish strong we began to talk about “What does finish strong look like?” That created a concept which has worked for us, and that is: The common begin and the uncommon finish.

The common begin and the uncommon finish.

The common begin—a lot of people start things. I call that having a big heart. “Let’s do it.” Big heart. “I’m ready. Take me. Send me.” But they have little feet. They don’t actually get done what needs to get done.

So the common begin and the uncommon finish, and we wanted to be uncommon. So that became “finish strong”—remember, the common begin; the uncommon finish—we wanted to be uncommon.

When I was working on paper organization, the motto came, finish today, today. When I began public speaking and traveling, I found that if I didn’t get my papers ordered from the day, the receipts from the travel day, the orders people sent home with me for books, the work of today, if I didn’t finish today, today; guess what? Tomorrow has enough potential work in it. Finish today, today, helped me not put so many things onto my today’s schedule, tomorrow’s schedule, next month’s schedule.

My husband used to say to young couples (we taught a young married’s class, and still mentor young couples), “Don’t run from something; run to it.” That became one of our mottos. Don’t run from something.

We wouldn’t let them out of our Sunday school class if they came and said, “Waa, waa, waa. . . We’re not happy with this small group. We don’t like the way they’re doing anything.” Don’t run from it; run to it. “You fix that first, and then we send you off. We’ll pray for you, lay hands on you. You go—go in God’s speed—but you’re not getting our fond affection and tender send off if you’re running away from us.”

Be a thermostat, not a thermometer, of course, is one of our Otto’s Mottos.

He’s not the enemy. That’s about your husband, mostly. While he feels like the enemy, remember, he’s not the enemy. Who’s the real enemy? The real enemy is the ruler of this world who wants you to believe that your husband is an enemy instead of a sinner just like you—a sinner just like you.

Elisabeth Elliot taught me that I married a sinner. She got me all riled up one day telling me how much David was a sinner, and I was going, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

And then calmly she said, “And he married a sinner, too.”

“Oh.” That sort of deflated me.

There are a number of Otto’s Mottos that we have confiscated from Elisabeth: Light the light and don’t curse the darkness.

When you get into a mode that you are shunning and cursing the dark things more than you are lighting the light things—darkness shows itself. You go about lighting the light.

That is especially true in affirming your children. Don’t be looking for every bad thing your children do. Look for a lot of good things that your children are doing and lighting the light.

I picked some of those Otto’s Mottos that stand out. 

Nancy: You’re going to just love these Otto’s Mottos. They’re just so practical.

Just a couple more: Enter marriage and close all your exits—that’s a good one.

Enter marriage and close all your exits.

This is one my dad believed in, by the way—this didn’t start with Otto, this started with him, I think: No serious conversation after 10:30 at night.

Donna: Absolutely. With your children or your husband.

Nancy: My dad believed nothing of eternal value ever happened after 11:00 at night, so that was it. There’s actually some truth to that way of thinking.

Donna, you’re a mentor; you’re a discipler, and I want to just close this series by asking a couple of questions.

As you reflect now in your sixties on your life thus far, do you have any regrets—anything that you wish you’d done differently?

Donna: Yes. I have a long list of them. I believe we all do, and that’s a good thing. It’s a good thing to pass on, but I believe we have to be careful about what position regrets hold in our lives.

Nancy: Yes.

Donna: I regret that I did not deal with the pain of my first twenty years of life in my mother and father’s household.

I regret that I didn’t listen more to wise people, which means that I regret that I talked as much as I did in my life.

Listening—I regret that I didn’t listen to God more.

I regret that I didn’t obey more. I often wonder if Noah was the first person God asked to build the ark.

Nancy: Interesting.

Donna: I don’t know if I’ll ever know that, but I think God calls us to do important, profound, difficult things, and we hear it, but we say, “No.” So I regret that I didn’t listen and was more obedient when it put me on the cutting edge of doing something that maybe everybody else wasn’t doing.

Are those enough regrets?

Nancy: Those are good reminders for all of us.

How do you want your husband and your daughter, grandchildren, your friends to remember you?

Donna: There are many fine women in this world, but you are the best of them all, Donna Otto. That’s what I want my husband to say, the words of the Proverbs. Not the best wife as if I’ve run a race, a contest, and I’d won the contest for "wife of the world." I want to be the best wife for David Otto.

That means knowing him, understanding him, watching him change. He says that I married a stud muffin and now he’s just a muffin, and it’s true. I watch him not able to do all the physical things he used to do. Well, that’s just a part of our growing old together.

I want my daughter to honor me in her adult life in a way that will bring blessing to her. I want the proverbs, again, that says that she will rise up and bless me—bless me by honoring what I have done for her to bring glory to God and to encourage her in her walk of faith.

I want my grandson to say, “That Nana was fun. I want to go to Nana’s house.” I just want him to want to be with me because I look at him, and he looks at me, and we look at each other. Not because Nana takes him somewhere or buys him something. I want him to know that I prayed for him every day in such a way that it encouraged his walk of faith. What I mostly want is him to come to faith as early in life as he possibly can, and the same would be true for the other children in our daughter’s family, if she should have them.

May she be able to acknowledge his sin, and may he be able to see his sin early in life so that she can help him, and his Father can help him fix those things.

Nancy: I'd love to hear, anybody, a short response from your heart—something the Lord prompted you about.

Woman: As a mother of five, I’m thinking in particular of my three daughters, and how I have noticed in relationships with other young women, either through babysitting or whatever, as they have come in my home, the relationship I’ve developed with them, for my girls, should I be encouraging their relationships with other women outside our home?

Donna: Yes. Yes. A simple, short, sweet answer—yes. I would put a criteria or two on that: Encourage your daughter with women who are like-minded who have the same belief system who are in your circle and sphere. Encourage your girlfriends to say, “Hey, send your daughters to my house. I want to have an overnight with your daughters. Let me take your daughters to lunch.” Let’s do this thing.

I did that with six or seven women in my life. When our daughter was married, she did not have a bridal luncheon before her wedding day. She had a luncheon that she threw in honor of the older women in her life. There were twelve women in that room. Nine of them were direct relationships that I had an influence in encouraging in her life who became the voices in her life. 

When she was in college, her freshman year, and she had made a decision. I heard about it through my friends: “Issa called and asked about it,” and “Issa called and asked about . . ." She never called me. I finally said to her, “Hon, why didn’t you call Dad and I and ask?” And she said, “Mom, I knew what you and Dad thought about it. I wanted to know what they thought about it.”

This was a pivotal moment in my life—thinking, That was what I planned when I created and helped facilitate those relationships. When I gave way, I wasn’t jealous. Now, was I always not jealous? No. There was a couple of times when I was as jealous and green with envy as I could be that my little girl was telling somebody else something she wasn’t telling me, but when I got my head right and knew that was important, it was okay.

So, yes. Do it, and try to encourage it to be with women who are like-minded and have the same belief system as you. If they can be in your network so that you can share and have shared experiences—travel together, have celebrations together, it will be a great asset to your daughters.

Kendall: I’m sitting beside my mentor who I met at, like, ten or eleven, for the first time. She drove a red Fierro, and I thought she was the coolest thing ever. But then I started babysitting for her girls in high school, and our relationship to this day is so . . . she just encourages me. I am the mom I am today not only because of my mom, but because of her. And just for you moms out there, just really encourage your girls because my girls are going to benefit from her, too. So just pray that into your kids’ lives.

Nancy: What our listeners can’t see is that Kim is sitting next to Kendall, crying. It’s just a reminder, ladies, to live your life now and make choices now in light of a day you cannot now see—to make choices now in every area of your life that years down the road you’ll look back, and you’ll see that there’s fruit, there’s reward.

Whether you’re mothering all those little ones, you’re being faithful in making a home for your husband and your family. You’re mentoring, you’re investing time, you’re serving, you’re giving, and you’re saying, “Where’s the reward?” Kim didn’t see the reward of her mentoring when Kendall was a ten-year old, but now Kendall’s a mom with four children of her own, and Kim is seeing the fruit of her labors, the fruit of her investment.

The acorn gets planted, but you don’t see the oak until years and years and years later, but the choices you’re making now are planting seeds, for better or for worse, that will reap a harvest not just ten years from now, but, should the Lord tarry, generations from now. So get the long view. That will give you a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

I know right now some empty nesters, who are recent empty nesters—godly women who are trying to figure out, “What do I do now? What’s my purpose?” They’ve been for years and years investing in their children—rightly so—and they are now asking the Lord, “What do I do at this season?” I’m looking at them, and I’m thinking, Oh, there is so much for you to do.

Now is when you need to take those things God has taught you through those years and come alongside that young mom with five kids, or three kids, or who thinks she’s never going to live through this, and help her, encourage her. Take some of those younger women, invest in their lives. You’re planting seeds for the future, and you will reap a harvest. 

We’ve just seen that illustrated beautifully here.

Woman: As a grown woman now—and I live in the same town as my mother now—I’ve moved around and had different women mentoring me through the years in different places. I kind of have a question about the wisdom in having your own mom mentor you at this age now.

Donna: I think it’s the antics with semantics kind of thing. I am Anissa’s mother, and I will always be Anissa’s mother. I'm singularly the only mother she’ll ever have. She can have variety of mentors, and she will, and when I’m dead and gone, she’ll have many more. So I think the role of mother maintains its status always. I think it redefines itself, and a daughter helps a mother redefine it.

My daughter’s phrase is “She had to renegotiate a relationship with me.” The reason why she had to, and we came to this in agreement—we had a common understanding of it. She went off, as you said, and you’ve been around. My learning curve at that time was really tiny because I’d already done most of my . . . I’m still increasing, but my learning curve was . . . and her learning curve was huge.

So now these two women who are joined together literally for life as mother and daughter—biological or adoptive, same role—we’re joined together. She had this huge learning curve; I had this little bitsy learning curve. She felt it was her responsibility to renegotiate that relationship with that huge gulf between us.

Nancy: So what does your relationship with your daughter look like now?

Donna: Well, here’s one thing it looks like: I zip my lip. A mentor does not zip her lip. She opens her lip intentionally by the mandate of God. I wait for my daughter to ask me.

Nancy: Now, you’re talking now a grown daughter, this is not a teenage daughter. This is your grown daughter who has a child of her own.

Donna: Correct. Grown daughter—marriage of her own, home of her own, child of her own—and I zip my lip. When I fail to zip my lip, I know immediately. I am convicted immediately that I am reaching in and telling her what to do in an area that God has already given her responsibility for. It’s her marriage, and I have to respect that and how they do it. It’s her child, and I have to respect that, too. Does she always do the right thing? Well, no.

Nancy: Did you?

Donna: Neither did I. Exactly. Neither did I.

I’ve also found she asks me more questions. She wants to know what I think about this far more often than a lot of my peers who have been willing to keep their lip unzipped.

I hope that helps you. Remember the honoring of your mother. The Hebrew word "honor" is a very interesting word. In its bottom (I won’t take time to describe it all) it really has to do with opening the door to the understanding of who that person is now. I’m a different woman than I was, and my daughter has to keep renegotiating that relationship. It is what it is. She has to keep opening the door to Mama’s heart now and understanding what honor looks like, and she doesn’t honor me her way. She honors me with events that prove that she understands what I value as honoring.

Nancy: Thank you for investing in our lives. May the Lord keep His hand on your life, on your ministry, and grant all those desires of your heart for His glory.

Thank You, Lord, for giving us an example of a woman who knows You and has walked with You and is seeking You with all her heart and encourages those of us who are coming behind to know that we really can run this race by Your grace and in Your power.

We thank You for the fruit You’ve given to Donna’s life. We pray that would continue and multiply for generations to come should You tarry.

Lord, we pray for our own lives, that we would be earnest followers of Christ, and that You would use us to bear much fruit for Your glory, not just to spectate and see You use other women like Donna, but to become Donnas, to become the women You intended us to be, to be lovers and givers and servants and followers of Christ, and to really make a difference in the world where You have us. We pray these things in Jesus’ name, amen.

Dannah: Donna Otto has been talking with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth about the godly influence women have on husbands, children, and grandchildren. 

And we’ve posted a PDF of “Otto’s Mottos” on our website, That’s also where you can find more helpful information on what it looks like to be and have a godly mentor.

Nancy wrote about the Titus 2 mandate for older women to teach younger women in her book Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together. It’s a beautiful book with a beautiful message. We’d love to send you a copy of Adorned when you contact us with a donation of any size. Just head over to or call us at 1–800–569–5959. Ask about Nancy’s book Adorned when you call.

Everywhere I go people keep asking me what's the update on this year's conference? Nancy, do we know?

Nancy: Our team has spent a lot of time seeking the Lord, praying, thinking, negotiating, and talking in the COVID environment of what needed to happen with the True Woman conference this fall. We've now made a decision that we are not going to be having True Woman '20 in September as we had originally planned. There are current social distancing requirements, as you know, that are shifting day after day, week after week. We've determined that it is not feasible to do a conference like what you would expect if you’ve ever been to a True Woman conference in the past. But we want you to know that we are already planning for conferences next fall in 2021 and in 2022 as well. Also, we will be having some new kinds of expanded ministry coming your way in the months ahead. So be sure to listen up for that.

Dannah: I am looking forward to hearing more about that.

Tomorrow we’ll continue our month-long emphasis on helpful, godly conversations that are relevant and practical to life. Sarah Mae joins me in the studio, and we’ll hear a sweet story of forgiveness. I hope you’ll join us for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to experience true freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ. 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.