FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Profiles in Empty Nest Courage

with Barbara Rainey, Susan Yates | September 19, 2008
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Today on the broadcast, walk with us down the hall of heroes as Dennis and Barbara Rainey and author Susan Yates profile just some of the women making a difference in the season of life we call the empty nest.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Today on the broadcast, walk with us down the hall of heroes as Dennis and Barbara Rainey and author Susan Yates profile just some of the women making a difference in the season of life we call the empty nest.

  • 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.

Today on the broadcast, walk with us down the hall of heroes as Dennis and Barbara Rainey and author Susan Yates profile just some of the women making a difference in the season of life we call the empty nest.

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Profiles in Empty Nest Courage

With Barbara Rainey, Susan Yates
September 19, 2008
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Bob: If you've been thinking to yourself as a wife and as a mom – what do I want to do once the empty nest years arrive?  Maybe a better question to ask is – what does God want me to do during those years?  Here is Barbara Rainey.

Barbara: Sometimes we, as wives, are deceived into thinking that God doesn't want to speak to us, He just wants to speak to my husband.  But God deals with us all as individual people, and He wants to speak to each of us individually.  So we want to challenge women to listen.  We want to say God has a plan, we want to encourage you to ask God what that is that He is calling you to do in the empty nest years of your life.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, September 19th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  How do you determine what God wants to accomplish during your empty nest years and get with His agenda?  We'll talk about that today.  Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition.  When I was in – I think it was elementary school, the book, "Profiles in Courage," came out.  Do you remember that?  President Kennedy's book?

Dennis: I do.

Bob: It was stories of courageous people and how they had demonstrated that courage in a variety of settings.  I've just been wondering this week if there might be a book that our guests would want to write in a few years, you know, "Profiles in Empty Nest Courage?"

Dennis: I think they've got to start with the book they've just written – "Barbara and Susan's Guide to the Empty Nest," because it's all about challenging women to fill their empty nest with purpose.

Bob: There are some great stories that you've sprinkled through the book, Barbara Rainey and Susan Yates are the two women you're talking about.  Barbara, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.

Barbara: Thank you, Bob.

Bob: And, Susan, always great to have you here as well.

Susan: Well, thank you.

Bob: And I know that as you were working on this book, which you've designed to try to encourage women to understand and embrace this chapter of life as an exciting chapter, you heard a lot of great stories from women who you said, "That's it.  They're doing what we want to encourage other women to do."

Susan: That's so true and, you know, what happens is, is we hear what other people are doing, we get jacked up about possibilities.

Dennis: Yeah, faith begets faith and courage begets courage.

Barbara: That's right.

Susan: Right, it causes us to think bigger.

Bob: And the whole idea that you have here is that when a woman reaches the empty nest, and her parenting responsibilities decrease or they shift or they change, there's not as much time and demand taken there, there's capacity now that she can turn toward – evangelism, discipleship, loving God, loving others.

Dennis: Well, there's all kinds of life experience that she's had that younger women haven't had that she can pass on to the next generation.

Bob: We thought it would be fun today to see if we could get some of these women that you've talked about in your book on the line and have them share some of their stories.  And the first woman, Barbara, is a friend of yours who lives in Atlanta, Georgia.  Do you want to tell our listeners who she is?

Barbara: Yeah, I'd love to.  This is a good friend of ours, Susan's and mine and Dennis and yours as well, and that's Karen Loritts, and Karen's husband, Crawford, is a pastor there in Atlanta, and Karen is the mother of four adult children, and she's been an empty nester now, I would say, probably, five or six years.

And Karen has been such an inspiration to me.  She is always thinking creatively about how she can influence others and how she can change her community.  She has been very involved in a number of local projects.  She knows how to write grants.  She knows how to motivate women, and she has told us a story of several different things she's been involved in, and there's one project she started recently that we'd particularly like for her to explain because we feel like she would do a better job than we would.

Bob: Well, we're going to see if we can get her on the line and see if she can share that story with us.  So our engineer, Keith, is seeing if we can place that call.  Let's see if we can get Karen.

Dennis: And while Keith is placing the call, I just want to say that what Karen is doing, I think, can be replicated in hundreds of cities across the nation by women just like Karen Loritts, who are willing to step out in faith and put a little shoe leather behind it and a little leadership, and not take no for an answer.

Bob: And at this point I feel a little like Regis, you know, and – "We're going to ask AT&T to place that call.  Karen, Karen, are you on the line?"

Dennis: This is the lifeline.

Bob: That's right, it's our lifeline, Karen?

Karen: Yeah, right.


Dennis: Karen, Barbara was just bragging on you, talking about, really, the vision you feel like God's given you, at least one of the things you are doing there in Atlanta of going to 100 women and challenging them to be world-changers in their community?

Karen: Yes.

Dennis: Why don't you share with our listeners how that came about?

Karen: Well, along with a couple of ladies that we have been involved with various organizations throughout the years, some of them got together and called and said, "Karen, would you like to be a part of a group of ladies to give away a lot of money without having fundraisers?"  I've been up the kazoo with fundraisers.  And so I said, "Oh, yeah, that will be good." 

So 11 of us got together, and we went ahead an bylaws, and what we're doing is that there is an organization, a secular group in Atlanta, that does that.  So we got together some of our friends and made a list and challenged them, and so the commitment was for three years you're going to make a commitment to be involved in a nonprofit – find ministries that are doing the work of God in the city, in the metro area, and just give $1,000 for the next three years.

And within a month, less than 30 days, we had 50 ministries from around the metro area to say, "I want to apply for that grant."  And so it's a long process, so, anyway, it's the easiest ministry that I've done giving money away.

Bob: Karen, the giving money away part does sound easy, but all the stuff you were describing before that sounded like it takes a little bit of time and coordination and effort.

Karen: Well, the only work went into the board of trustees, which there are 12 of us that sit on the board of trustees, just narrowing down our bylaws – that took months and months, and basically all the ladies we seek that we want to do what God wants us to do, we want to give them money, but we don't want to have a lot of fundraisers and do a lot of meetings, and so that's what we've done, and we've streamlined it to meet the needs of the ladies that want to give – so it was a great process.

Bob: Is this something that – now that you guys have done it Atlanta, other women in other cities could kind of pick it up and …

Karen: Oh, yeah.  Oh, yeah.

Dennis: So you'd be willing to share your bylaws and kind of a template of how you put it together?

Karen: Yeah, that's right.

Dennis: All right, there we go.

Bob: You know, the reason that we called you to talk about this is because we've been talking this week on FamilyLife Today about women in the empty nest stage of life taking some of that extra time and capacity that they used to invest in raising their children and now investing it in Kingdom-mindedness.  This is one of the main ways that you've been doing this since your kids left home, right?

Karen: Yeah, yeah, and it's – this is – what we started last year is just the tail-end of what I've been going through all the previous years.  You know, just networking around the city.

Dennis: Karen, I have to ask you this question – what kind of ministries are you targeting for Atlanta?  I know your heart has been for the inner city.  Is that the kind of ministry you're looking at?

Karen: No, as long as they have a 501c3 for two years, and they are being involved in Kingdom work, but we had all the way across the gamut, you know, from adopted grandparents to some pregnancy centers.  So we had – anybody who could send an application, we just looked at.

Dennis: I'm going to tell Susan and Barbara to rename Chapter 12 in their book – "Karen Loritts, World-Changer."


Barbara: I don't know, that's not far off.

Dennis: You are absolutely the best.  I'm ready to leave FamilyLife and go to work for you, Karen.

Karen: Okay, just give me $1,000.


Barbara: Just give me the money, huh?

Bob: Karen, thanks.  Thanks for taking a little time and being one of our profiles in empty nest courage today.

Karen: [laughs] Crawford said hi to everybody.

Dennis: Yeah, tell Crawford hi.  You know, Bob introduced this section by talking about JFK's book, "Profiles in Courage," and Karen reminds me of a quote that's in that book that I just happen to remember.  He said, "There comes into the life a time that literally propels him into the storm, into the center of it," and that's what Karen has done.  She has been propelled into the storm, but she's not the only one that you all have run across as you wrote your book.

Susan: That's right.  We've had a real variety of women, and one of my real heroes in this whole process of the empty nest is a single parent friend of mine named Julia.  And I would love for her to share with us her story of how she's walked through this period of the empty nest and how God is using her.

Bob: Well, and we've had Keith get Julia on the line while you've been talking, and I'll do my Regis thing here again, all right?

Dennis: Okay.

Bob: [mimicking Regis Philbin]  We've got Julia on the line.  Julia, you're our lifeline today.

Julia: Well, I feel privileged.  Karen is a humble act to follow, I'll tell you.

Dennis: I'll tell you what, no doubt about it.

Bob: Welcome to …

Julia: Are you sure you want to talk to me?

Dennis: We are, we do. 

Bob: Welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Tell us about what new assignment God gave you in life when your nest emptied out?

Julia: Well, it's an ongoing process.  It's a work in progress.  My kids have basically been gone since September of this year and, in fact, I have an empty house completely, and I've been used to having lots of people here for different things – church and ministry-related things, and it truly is an empty nest except for me and my dogs for the past couple of months.

And it's been really interesting.  My first thought was, when Susan started talking about this, I thought, "What's the big deal here?  So they leave."  Well, there's a big deal.  I have discovered something about myself that I suspected for a while, but I never had an opportunity to really test it, and I've discovered that I am very externally motivated and that because my house is empty, there are sometimes when I really waste time that I probably wouldn't have had there been other people around.  And that's been sort of big for me lately.  I'm trying to figure out how to reconfigure my life because I depended so much on all those other factors to define what I was doing and where I was going and what – who I was.

Dennis: Julia, are you saying that you gained motivation from other people?  They gave you passion and purpose?

Julia: Yes.  Sort of their passions and purposes and mine together stimulated me and got me going, and in some ways, having no one else in my home has forced me to think more carefully about what my next step is, because I've been doing so much for everybody else and not for me.

Bob: So after the house had been real quiet for a couple of weeks, and you thought, "Oh, gee, it is different around here."

Julia: Well, the first couple of weeks it was really nice.  I could get into this.


Bob: Right.

Julia: This is wonderful, I can really enjoy this.  I don't have to fix anybody's dinner but my own, I ate salad for a week, it was wonderful.  But it is a challenging time, and I can see that I sort of have, all these years, been thinking so much about everybody else and not about my own direction.  And that's sort of what I'm trying to work out right now.

Bob: We've been talking this week with Barbara and Susan about determining what your purpose for this chapter of life is, and engaging in Kingdom purposes, and you're doing something with dogs, as a single parent, that's kind of your new assignment, right?

Julia: Yeah.  Well, actually, we did it, and we've been doing it for a long time, but I'm able to concentrate more on it.  I've been raising guide dogs for the blind for about the past 10 years, and that sounds really impressive.  Actually, it's not, it's just keeping them safe and socializing them until somebody who really knows what to do with them takes them.

But it's been a wonderful experience for my own kids in the process of raising my kids and the dogs at the same time, and now that they are gone, I find I'm focusing more on the dogs, and spending more time with the training, and it's really been rewarding.

Dennis: Where did you get your heart for this kind of mission in life?

Julia: Well, I've always had dogs all my life, and they've always been wonderful pets, but when I was working back in the years before I was doing what I'm doing now, interior design, I worked for NBC Television, and we did a series once on service dogs.  And it just captured my attention, and I thought, "Someday when I get the time, that's what I'm doing.  I can't believe a dog can be trained to do this."  And that was 20 years ago.

But, finally, the time came, and I was home with my kids, and it was time to do it, and it was a wonderful experience, and I just – it really feels like a calling, it really does.

Bob: Well, Julia, thanks for sharing your – we're calling these "Profiles in Empty Nest Courage."

Julia: Well, I don't know if it's courage or not, but I don't know if I could without Susan, that's for sure.  She's been my lifeline, I'll tell you.

Bob: You have been an inspiration to Susan and Barbara as they've written the book and now will be an inspiration to a lot of other women who can say, "You know, there's something I can do now with the extra time and capacity that I have in my life."

Julia: There is, indeed.  There is so much.

Dennis: We've been talking about filling the empty nest.  You're really filling the empty kennel.


Bob: [howls like a dog] I'm howling at that one.


Julia: Thank you so much.

Dennis: Thank you, Julia.

Bob: Thank you, Julia, good to talk to you.

Susan: Bye, Julia.

Barbara: Bye-bye.

Dennis: You know, what an amazing story.

Susan: You know, Julia has an amazing story, but what you didn't hear, but what you would read in the book is the story of her journey as a single parent.  Her husband walked out on her, and she has raised two amazing kids, and she has been an inspiration to me, because she has not ever allowed herself to sit in a pity party.  She is one of these women who is a "there you are" woman. 

You know, I've often heard the phrase that there are two types of people that walk into a room.  One is a "Here I am," woman, "reach out and care for me."  And another person comes into the room who is a "There you are" woman – "how can I care for you?"  And Julia's mission in life is to be a "There you are" woman, and I've watched that up close in her status as a single parent, and she's been a true inspiration to me.

Bob: Well, these are just a couple of the stories. You have a number of accounts like this throughout your book, because you're trying to paint a picture for women as they move into the empty nest that it can be a full and fulfilling period of life.  Other women have found that, and those other women are models for you of what the empty nest can be.

Barbara, I know you heard Kay Warren talk about how God really sprang up a vision in her heart for children with AIDS in Africa, and how that became a life mission for her.

Barbara: Yeah, I heard this story, actually, it was on a FamilyLife Today broadcast that you all recorded with Rick and Kay Warren, as a matter of fact.

Bob: Isn't that special, yeah?

Barbara: But as I listened to that, and I listened to her tell her story, I thought, "Wow, it's inspiring, it's motivating," but the thing that I think is so wonderful about it is that it's such a picture of how God has a plan for us in the empty nest years.  They may be different than what we think we are going to do.  We talked to several women in the process of doing our book who thought they knew what they were going to do in the empty nest years and how God said, "No, I have another plan for you."

And Kay Warren is one of those.  Kay tells how she was sitting at home one day reading a magazine, and she was reading about the number of AIDS orphans on the continent of Africa, and she read the number and thought, "This can't be true.  I've never heard this before.  If it were true, I would have known it.  There can't be this many orphans."  And then she thought, "But maybe there are."

So she began to do some investigating, and God gripped her heart with the plight of these children in Africa who don't have parents, who don't have homes, who don't have food, who don't have clean running water.  I mean, the numbers are staggering, but when you start putting faces to the numbers, it's overwhelming.

And so Kay said, "We have to do something."  And she began to talk to her husband, Rick, and said, "We have to do something about the orphans in Africa."  And, over time, God really got hold of Rick's heart as well, and he said, "You're right, we do."

Dennis: And, as a result, an entire ministry has been birthed at Saddleback that now encircles the globe and is calling literally thousands of other churches to step out and address this need.  And we've had the privilege of partnering with Saddleback and Rick and Kay with our ministry, Hope for Orphans, in equipping moms, empty nesters, others who want to start an orphan care, foster care, or adoption ministry in their local church. 

And these are all lay-led ministries of people who say, "You know what?  I care, I want to make a difference," and I think Kay Warren illustrates how a courageous step of faith can make a difference in a lot of people's lives.

Bob: And, you know, it's interesting, because you think about these different women that we've heard about today, and they are very different scenarios.  You've got a woman who is involved with dozens of other women in her local community.  You've got another woman who is doing a ministry, really, on her own, raising guide dogs for the blind, and then you've got a pastor's wife who has launched what God has seen fit to make a worldwide ministry, and I think part of the point is, whatever God is calling you to, it's not a question of will it be big or will it be small, will it be with a lot of people or will it be just me alone.  The question is – what's your assignment, how are you going to advance the cause of Christ, how do you take the extra that's in your life now during the empty nest season and put that to work for the Kingdom so that you can advance the cause of Christ in a way that maybe you couldn't be as actively involved when you still had kids at home.

Barbara: Absolutely, and one of the things I think we want to say to women is God wants to speak to you.  He wants you to hear from Him, and it's one of my favorite parts of Kay Warren's story is that Rick said afterwards, he said, "God used my wife, Kay, to speak to me."  And I think sometimes we, as wives, are deceived into thinking that God doesn't want to speak to us.  He just wants to speak to my husband, and then I'm supposed to follow.

But God deals with us all as individuals, and God wants a relationship with me, He wants a relationship with my husband, He wants a relationship with each of us as individual people, and He wants to speak to each of us individually.  So we want to challenge women to listen.  We want to say, "God has a plan.  We want to encourage you to ask God what that is and then listen and see what God says to you what it is that He's calling you to do in the empty nest years of your life."

Susan: And then all you have to do is simply take the first step.  We don't have to see the end of the path, we just have to step out in faith and often it's one small baby step at a time.  We simply need to begin.

Dennis: And what you and Barbara have done, Susan, is I think you two have really stepped out and encouraged other women to get a vision for their lives; to process through the empty nest and come to grips with what is my purpose, why am I here, and I think what I want women to hear out of this broadcast is not just a book about the empty nest, but to ask God and really begin to pray – what is my reason for being here?  Whether you're an empty nester or not – what passion should I have beyond my own home, and maybe it needs to be there right now, but someday those little chicks and roosters are going to head out, and your nest will empty, and you do need to fill it with God's purpose for the next season of life.

And, Susan, Barbara, thanks for joining us and thanks for sharing your passion with our listeners over the past few days.

Susan: Well, we've had a great time.

Barbara: Yes, it's been wonderful.

Bob: And we've got copies of your book in our FamilyLife Resource Center for listeners who are interested in getting a copy, and I hope a lot of women will do that.  Go to  On the right side of the home page, you'll see a box that says "Today's Broadcast," and if you click where it says "Learn More," that will take you to the area of the site where you can find out more about "Barbara and Susan's Guide to the Empty Nest" and about other resources we have available to help women during this season of life including a four-CD audio series that features not only what we've talked about this week but an extended conversation on the subject of this season of life, the empty nest season.

And there may be some women who want to get those CDs and listen to them together as they meet with one another to think and pray and support one another during this transition phase of life.

Again, our website is, and if you get to the home page, on the right side of the screen, you'll see "Today's Broadcast."  Click where it says "Learn More," and you'll have the information you need about the resources that are available from us here at FamilyLife.  Or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329.  That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.

When you get in touch with us, someone on our team can answer whatever questions you have about the resources you need or make arrangements to have the resources sent out to you.

And there is one other thing we'd like to send out to you this week.  It's a CD that we've been making available to listeners simply for calling and requesting it – a message from our friends, Jody and Linda Dillow, on the subject of intimacy in marriage.  This is a message that they gave at a conference where they were speaking to a number of couples a few years ago.  It's called "The Four Flames of Marital Intimacy," and we're making it available this week if you'll simply call and let us know where you listening to FamilyLife Today – the call letters of the radio station on which you hear our program or how you're listening.  We'd love to send you this CD, and we think you'll find it helpful in your marriage relationship.  Simply request the CD on marital intimacy when you call 1-800-FLTODAY.  That's 1-800-358-6329, and thanks for listening and thanks for contacting us and letting us know that you listen to FamilyLife Today.  We always appreciate hearing from you.

And, with that, we're going to wrap things up for this week.  Thanks for being with us.  I want to thank Susan Yates and Barbara Rainey for joining us.  On Monday, we're going to talk to husband about one of the ways you can really express love to your wife.  We'll explain what that is on Monday's program, and 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.  Have a great weekend.  We'll see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow.  


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