FamilyLife Today® Podcast

A Mother’s Plan

with Donna Otto | May 11, 2006
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Today on the broadcast, Donna Otto, a home and life management expert and founder of Homemakers by Choice, encourages moms to be intentional in creating the home they've always dreamed of.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Today on the broadcast, Donna Otto, a home and life management expert and founder of Homemakers by Choice, encourages moms to be intentional in creating the home they've always dreamed of.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Donna Otto encourages moms to be intentional in creating the home they’ve always dreamed of.

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A Mother’s Plan

With Donna Otto
May 11, 2006
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Bob: You want a home that reflects peacefulness, tranquility, but you think to yourself with toddlers or with teenagers or with a job or with all that we've got going on around here, that's just not going to happen?  We asked author and speaker, Donna Otto, how she would mentor a young mom who wanted to make her home a peaceful home.

Donna: I would say to her what I say to every young woman – I say to myself, "It starts with me.  What is your peace, honey?"  What are you doing, how are you interfacing with Jesus Christ, your Savior, and if you are peaceful in yourself you cannot help but radiate that, and when the chips are down, it is Christ coming through you, and that's going to make that home holy ground and peaceful ground.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, May 11th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  As a mom, you often adjust the emotional thermostat in your home.  We'll talk today about how to put the setting on "peaceful."

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  Does your wife, Barbara, still like to read that Victorian magazine?

Dennis: Oh, yes, yes.

Bob: The one that's got all the pretty pictures of the homes and …

Dennis: We have several years stacked up outside our bedroom.  You know, the most expensive magazines in the world.

Bob: I've never forgotten asking your children what kinds of things – this was back when they were little.  I asked the kids what do Mom and Dad like for Christmas?  Or what does Dad get Mom for Christmas?  And one of your kids was saying, "Dad likes to get Mom a magazine."  And I said, "What magazine?"  And they were trying to say "Victorian," and they said "Victoria's Secret" instead.  So I bet Dad likes to get the magazine for mom.


 Well, you look at those magazines sometimes, whether it's "Southern Living," or "Victorian," or out where you live, it's "Sunsets," right?

Donna: Very good!

Bob: They show all these pictures of these homes, and you look at them, and you go, "Why can't my house look like that?"  Isn't that what – doesn't Barbara feel that way?

Dennis: Oh, yeah, "Better Homes and Gardens" for years, you know, every leaf is in place, just like we all lived that way, right?  No way.


 That laugh you just heard was from Donna Otto who lives in Arizona.

Bob: Where you get "Sunsets" magazine.

Dennis: There you go, and it is a great magazine if you've never seen it.  Donna is the founder of Homemakers by Choice and the author of a new book called "Finding Your Purpose as Mom."  And, Donna, you do a lot of work with moms, and you're out there cheering them on.  You're hearing that moms today not only need purpose, but they need a plan to go with that purpose.  Where did they begin as they think about shaping a practical plan for their role as mothers?

Donna: As you asked that question, my mind is going, "Oh, how many bunny trails do I have opportunity for?"


Bob: Let's chase a few and see what we get.

Donna: Chase a few and see how long I've got.

Dennis: This one has a lot of bunnies on it.

Donna: Well, you know, I wrote those stay-at-home mom books about 15 years ago, and I have been saying – the book was called "The Stay-at-Home Mom," and I've been saying the difference between a stay-at-home and a mall mom or a book mom or a TV mom or a Bible study mom is a mom who takes this plan of building a home seriously, because you can leave work, and I'll go so far as to say this – if I were a man – and I'm not – but I was working full time so that my wife could be at home managing our home and raising our children, and the statistics are staggering as to the career advancement for a man who has a wife who is at home, managing her home and helping raise the children.  His career is launched and determined to go much further than the woman who works full time, et cetera, et cetera.  But if I were that husband …

Dennis: Barbara would agree with that, by the way.

Donna: Yes, yes, if I were her husband, and I came home to a mess, and I came home to finding out that she'd been to three Bible studies this week and, you know, there wasn't much Bible living going on in my house, I would be the first one to say to her, "Go get a job, honey.  Just go get a job, we'll get someone else to take care of the children.  We'll hire a housekeeper, and things will be a little better than they are with you being a stay-at-home mom and not taking it seriously."

 So I feel so strongly about that because, as I said earlier, these women are singularly the most educated that have ever walked the face of the earth.  They have skill sets.  It's not like they have to be at home because there is nothing else they can do.  That's not true.

 So I want to encourage them to apply what they have learned in their education, in their careers and their work environments to home.

Bob: Okay, but a lot of the young women who are listening to you right now go, "Okay, thanks for putting me under the pile, because my home is a mess.  I do want to be purposeful and intentional, but I don't have the plan to do it.  So help me here."

Donna: Okay, well, I'm going to give you a plan, but I'm also going to say these things do not happen overnight.  I was a woman who wrote on organization, the woman who hid her dirty dishes in the clothes dryer, okay, so I don't want anyone to get …

Bob: Did you really do that?

Donna: Oh, I lived in Chicago.  We had mice.  If you put them under the sink, the mice found them.  If you put them in the oven, you preheated the oven, and you broke them.  If you put them in the bathtub, you had to carry them.  The clothes dryer was the safest place in the world.

Dennis: How long would you leave them in there?

Donna: Well, until I needed the clothes dryer, and then I would open them up and have to take them out.

Bob: Move them to the sink.

Donna: Listen, if there is hope for me, there is hope for anyone.  I went to a meeting – this is 30-plus years ago.  I was invited to a business opportunity meeting.  I was very young, and – it was a little over 30 years ago – and I got there, and there was a man having a demonstration, and in front of him he had a long utilitarian eight-foot table piled high with photographs, pictures from magazines, and they were categorized – accessories, boats, minks – fur coats, jewelry, homes, art – okay, it was categorized, and he said to everyone that came in the room, "Go up to the front table and just select some pictures from each of the piles and bring them back to your chair."

 Well, I was young, and I loved all these things – diamonds, hello.  So I picked up a few things from every pile.  I got back on my chair, was a poster and some scotch tape.  The next instructions were to take the pictures, cut them out, put them on the poster.  I did that, I was very happy.

 And then he gave a presentation, and his presentation was if what you have put on this poster matters to you, put it on your refrigerator and come along with me in this business plan, and if you see in front of you every day on the refrigerator what you're longing for, you will be motivated to get it.

 Well, while that had a very superficial effect on me, and I did not do anything with that business …

Dennis: So you didn't put it on your fridge?

Donna: I didn't put it on my fridge, I didn't join his company, but God used it in my life because I literally drew a house with four walls.  You know, two sides, a little door, a little chimney, and in the book I provide that.  And if I were a technological person, and I'm really not, it would be inside your screen and along with the screen would be all sorts of icons.  And those icons you're going to choose from to decide what does your house want to look like?  What do you want your home to look like today 30 years from now?  Because that's the only real way to be intentional about building a home.

 Now, the Scripture already tells us what we want these children to grow up to be.  How do I get them to do that?  But, not only that, what do we want this home to look like?  And I use the thermostat/thermometer principle, and that is we are all thermometers.  I walk into a room, and I register what's going on – it's hot, it's angry, it's cold, it's peaceful, they're having fun, it's a celebration.  Anybody pretty much can do that if you breathe – can fog a mirror.  I'm saying to women don't be a thermometer, be a thermostat.  You go to the wall in your home and say, "I have the authority of God I want this home to be."  Is it fun?  Is it peaceful?  Is it authentic?  Is it full of grace?  Is it full of celebrations – celebrations take time and energy.  I grew up in a barren environment.  So barren, and I'm not of a generation that just severe dysfunctional homes were talked about, but I come from one of those homes, and 30-plus years ago when I made that picture of a house, one of the things I wanted inside our home was celebrations. 

I wanted to be intentional about celebrations, and any woman who is listening who has ever planned a celebration, it's a birthday party or a Christmas dinner, it takes a lot of work to be intentional about a healthy celebration in your home.  But 35 years later, you know, my husband and I have this wonderful record of celebrations that have been hosted in our home, and we still pull away when there are people in our home, and we find a little quiet place, the two of us.  He puts his arms around me, and we are both moved with pleasure at what God has allowed us to do – to hear people laughing and talking in our home.  But that was a plan that I laid, that David and I agreed on – we wanted our home to look like now, 30-plus years ago. 

 So what is that?  And it does take some time, but when we talk about laying a plan, we think all this stuff, because we live in the 21st century, happens overnight.  It does not.  You're laying a plan that's going to last for three decades.  So don't get all uptight if tomorrow the children have not settled in and there is peacefulness everywhere.

Bob: You're talking about establishing family values, establishing what's important in your home.  I'm thinking about the weekend you and Barbara took where early in your marriage you hammered out what was going to be important for your home.

Dennis: Right.  We both hammered out 10 values that were biblical values, and what I was thinking about as, Donna, you were sharing, this is where the Bible, the Scriptures, become a compass.  They point us to where the North Pole is, to where success and marriages and families are going to occur.  And, for us, those 10 values that both of us separately hammered out all came from the Bible.

 There were the typical ones of loving God, loving others, but there were others called the work ethic, integrity, other issues related to helping people and having a compassionate reach to the world.  Those values all came from the Scripture, and, Bob, I was thinking how Barbara and I took those 20 values that we came up, those lists, and how they were prioritized, and then we hammered out a mutual list of five that we prioritized.

Donna: Excellent.

Dennis: That was tough.

Bob: Did you put it on the refrigerator?

Dennis: You know, we didn't.  In 1990, though …

Donna: They didn't have a refrigerator [laughing].

Dennis: In 1990 we had an extended vacation with our kids, and we took our kids into that value experience, and it was a lot like you talked about.  And what we did, we didn't create a house – but I like your idea of creating a house that fits on the fridge, and then filling that house with the values that you'd like to have.  But we didn't fill a poster and put it on the fridge.  We did fill a poster with values that our kids contributed to, and we talked about that.  And it was interesting, last summer, one year ago, we reprinted what was on that poster that we had done 15 years earlier.

 And we gave the kids a list of those values and just looked down, and we'd failed on some, succeeded on others and partially succeeded on others.  We didn't do it perfectly, but the point is we were shooting for something, and I think, importantly, we weren't shooting for the diamonds, the minks, the fancy vacations, the fancy car, fancy house, et cetera, et cetera.  It was all about God's agenda and what He was up to.

Bob: One of the things that you had on your house poster was peace.  You wanted peace in your home.  Why was that such a big deal for you?

Donna: Well, because I came from chaos – just chaos.  There was never a calm moment in my home, growing up.  There was …

Dennis: Now, now, what kind of chaos are you speaking of?  Are you talking about internal conflict?  Were people at each other, yelling?  Angry?  Or just …

Bob: Or just activity – which was it – was it just really busy?

Dennis: Oh, it was just an Italian family?

Donna: I resent that.


 Actually, my father, who was Italian, did not know I was born until I was three years old.  My …

Bob: … excuse me?

Donna: They conceived me, but my mother did not know what she was doing, and then my grandparents moved her, pregnant, to California.  My mother got this plan that she was going to get on the train and go back to Chicago and find my Italian stallion father and surprise him.

Dennis: Now, they were married?

Donna: No, not married.

Dennis: Oh, they were not married.

Donna: They were not married at all.  And so there she was, she was 14 years old, and when they got back to Chicago, and she got to Chicago off the train, which put her into labor.  She went to the hospital, and her girlfriend, she called her girlfriend, and she said, "Call Michael and tell him that our daughter"  – and her girlfriend said, "Michael has a new girlfriend."  We're not surprised about that, are we?

 And so three years later my father found out that I was born.  He got in his hot, fast, red car and went to California, swept my mother off her feet.  Again, she was a beautiful Persian woman – girl – and they got married and lived very unhappily for 11 or 12 years.  Now, when you talk about chaos, I am talking about internal conflicts for each of them.  Yelling, screaming, physical, verbal – any kind of abuse you could just imagine went on in a home.  So I grew up in chaos.  I didn't know what peace was until I found the peace of Christ, and then I discovered, as a woman, as a wife and a mother, there were two kinds of peace people.  One was a peacekeeper.  "Everybody's happy here, aren't they?  I said so.  It's quiet here.  That's happiness, isn't it?"  Peacekeepers.  They just kept everything looking …

Dennis: They deny reality.

Donna: Yes, the psychologists call it "image management," and they did that very well.  I didn't want to be that.  I wanted to be what I thought Christ was, which was a peacemaker, a peacemaker.  And it just comes to my mind, but the Old Testament Book of Nehemiah that talks about the building of the wall in the city of Jerusalem.  There's a place when they're building the wall, they're building, the family, they're building the wall, they fought for it.  With one hand they're building the wall, and the other hand, they're holding onto their sword.

 And I think in the 21st century, families have to do that.  We have to fight for it.  And so you've got to be a peacemaker who says "This is the right way.  We're going to walk in it."  I don't care how many people are doing it, right is always right.  I don't care if a few people are doing it, wrong is always wrong."

Bob: You know, there are a lot of women listening who – they may not have had the same circumstances you had as a child, but they grew up in the same kind of a home where there was internal conflict, where there was tension, where there was fighting, where there was a lack of peace.  And they're thinking, "That's not what I want in my home, but I don't know how to get from the desire to the reality.  What do I do to make my home a place of peace?"

Donna: Well, Dennis said it, and you guys provide all sorts of resources and tools.  I am a tool buff.  If you don't know how to do it, there's a tool and a resource, and one of the wonderful things about the 21st century is anybody can get them.  You can find tools in your local churches, you can find tools in local organizations, you can get on the Web, you can get – you can find tools – not only free tools but tools that are inexpensive that will help you.

 I really encourage women not only to get the tools but to be very – don't just go grabbing off the shelf and say, "This is it.  Okay, I'll buy this, this, and this, and I'll read this and this."  Be very careful.  You can always be too casual, but you can never be too careful.  So when you're selecting tools, seek the counsel of others.  Is that a good organization?  Is that a good author?  The counsel from the Bible is always good counsel, and don't be afraid to read the Bible for yourself and understand it.  So get tools, get resources, and then, you know, I've really encouraged in everything I've written about mentoring and about staying at home, and in this book I encourage it again.  Get a sister, get a sister.

Dennis: A cheerleader.

Donna: A sister, a cheerleader, a sister who is walking through life with you, who, on certain days wants to get in the playpen and send the child out.  I mean, that's just real life.  A mentor is different.  I encourage girls to have a mentor, too, but get a sister who understands the authentic life you're living.  Sleep deprivation is a real fact of a young mom's life, and that passage in Timothy about Onesipherous – he says he refreshed him.  You know, at my age, refreshment looks very different than a young mom who is sleep-deprived.  Refreshment looks like, to her, come alongside me, sister, and bring me a meal, wash my toilet this afternoon, and next week when you're sleep-deprived, I'll do the same.

 So one of the tools I recommend is get a sister who understands so you don't feel isolated, and you're walking through this motherhood alone.

Bob: If your daughter called you and said, "Sister, Mom, I want to make sure my home is a peaceful home," where would you point her?

Donna: I would say to her what I say to every young woman.  I say it to myself – "It starts with me.  Where is your peace, honey?  What are you doing, how are you interfacing with Jesus Christ your Savior?"  And if you are peaceful in yourself you cannot help but radiate that, and when the chips are down, it is Christ coming through you that's going to make that home holy ground and peaceful ground.

Bob: Once again, Mom is the one setting the thermostat in the home.

Donna: Not the thermometer.

Dennis: I think if my daughter asked me, I'd take her to Ephesians, chapter 4, and I'd say, "Do a little study in the last half of that chapter about how Paul instructed in terms of relationships."  Because where does peace occur?  It occurs between people, and so the first place it occurs is, oh, about verse 23.  It talks about being renewed in the spirit of your mind – not walking as you used to walk – in a darkened mind – but getting in the Scriptures and beginning to think about life as God thinks about it, and as He teaches in the Scripture.  He talks about speaking the truth, you know, laying aside falsehood.  There will be a lot of peace in your home if you avoid lying; if you avoid accusations, but you speak the truth in love to one another.  Be angry and yet do not sin.

 When you do get angry, confess it.  I was on a phone call the other day with a young man, and I got angry and overstated the case, and said, "That was wrong.  Forgive me."  Well, there's a chance for peace to reside there.  Go through here, it talks about character – have godly character.  Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, so you're respectful of one another.  That's a great way to contribute to peace in the family and also a great way to destroy peace.  If you're disrespectful to your spouse, speak disrespectfully to your children, it's like picking up an ice pick and just chipping away at the image of God in them.

 And then the last part of the chapter, verse 31, "Let all bitterness and wrath an anger and clamor and slander be put away along with all malice."  And then it just closes simply, "And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other just as God, in Christ, has also forgiven you."  You know, if you could just live by the last verse in a family – that would create a lot of peace.  Being kind to one another, tenderhearted to one another, forgiving one another – that's a great assignment, and that's what contributes to great peace in the family.

Bob: And, really, what you're saying here is that it takes intentionality.  You have to be purposeful, you have to decide in advance that this is going to be a priority, and you're going to invest here, you're going to take time for it.  Again, it's back to that word being intentional about your assignment as a wife and as a mom, as a homemaker, and I think there are a lot of moms today who have a desire to make motherhood and homemaking a priority, but they need some help to know what that looks like. 

And to those moms, we want to recommend the book that our guest, Donna Otto, has written called "Finding Your Purpose as a Mom, How to Build Your Home on Holy Ground." We have the book in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and you can go to our website,  In the middle of the screen there's a button that says "Go."  If you click that button, it will take you right to a page where you can get more information about Donna's book and about other resources that are available from us here at FamilyLife. 

 In fact, we've got copies of another book that you've written called "Secrets to Getting More Done in Less Time," which is a very practical book for moms on how to take care of the business of homemaking so there is time left for the relationships that need to be the priority in your family. 

 If you're interested in getting both of these books, we'll send along at no additional cost the CD audio for our conversation with Donna Otto, and you may want to pass that along to a friend who would benefit from hearing the interview.

 Again, the website,, or call 1-800-FLTODAY.  That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we'll let you know how you can get these books sent out to you.

 You know, we have some friends here at FamilyLife who contacted us not long ago.  These are folks who are really committed to what God is doing through our ministry, about how God is using the radio program and our website and our conferences and events and all that we do across the country, and they're really excited about how God is using the ministry to transform people's lives.

 They contacted us and said, "We would like to make a donation to FamilyLife, but we want to do it in such a way that we encourage other people to join with us and make donations as well.  So they agreed that they would donate up to $350,000 during the month of May, but they put this condition on their donation – they said, "We will do it as a matching gift.  Every time one of your listeners makes a donation of $50," for example, they agreed that they would donate $50, and they would do that all the way up to the total of $350,000. 

 Now, we are hoping we'll be able to take full advantage of their generosity but in order to do that, we need as many of our listeners as possible during the month of May to do whatever you can do – make a $20 donation or a $50 donation, $100 donation, whatever works out for your family.  You can donate online at or you can call and make your donation over the phone at 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we do hope to hear from you, and we appreciate your financial support, particularly during this strategic time.

 Now, tomorrow we want to talk about the pace of life and what a mom can do to find some quiet and some rest in the midst of a busy schedule.  I hope you can be with us for that.

 I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.


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