FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Your Home is Holy Ground

with Donna Otto | May 10, 2006
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If home isn't a restaurant, or a school house, or an arcade or a laundromat, then what is it? On today's broadcast, Donna Otto, author of Finding Your Purpose as a Mom, explains that home should be a safe place where God's work gets done.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • If home isn't a restaurant, or a school house, or an arcade or a laundromat, then what is it? On today's broadcast, Donna Otto, author of Finding Your Purpose as a Mom, explains that home should be a safe place where God's work gets done.

  • 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 explains that home should be a safe place where God’s work gets done.

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Your Home is Holy Ground

With Donna Otto
May 10, 2006
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Bob: Moms wear a lot of different hats.  One of the hats a mom will wear is "environmental engineer."  According to author Donna Otto, what that means is that Mom needs to establish a home where relationships come first.

Donna: Make sure that the places that the family needs to be together as a family have the first priority of that physical surrounding.  And the truth is home is not a restaurant, home is not a computer office, home is not a schoolroom, it's not a laundromat, it's not an arcade.  And today everybody has their own CD, everybody has their own Gameboy, their iPOd, and everybody is playing their games by themselves, and we have turned that place into all sorts of other things besides a home.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, May 10th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  If your home could use a little environmental engineering, stay with us as we talk about it today.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  There is a myth that we like to poke a hole in every once in a while, you know?  It's the myth that homemaking is no big deal, optional …

Dennis: … anybody can do it …

Bob: … that's right.  It doesn't take a lot, it's not all that critical, it's not all the important.  Well, from time to time, we like to pull back and say, "Hang on, let's think that one through again," right?

Dennis: No doubt about it.  In fact, I am passionate about young wives who make the decision, especially when they get pregnant, to go home and to be a homemaker by choice.  And I think today if there is a revival that needs to occur, a spiritual revival that is going to reshape our nation, it's going to be the hand that rocks the cradle, and it's going to be that hand that decides to make that their singular focus.  They're going to be a wife and a mom to the glory of God, and they're not going to be distracted.

Bob: You have some daughters and daughters-in-law who have done that, right?

Dennis: I do, and I'm applauding them, and every time I’m with them, I get a chance to give them a hug, and I say "You know what?  I am really proud of you, because you could do a lot of stuff."  They're gifted, they're talented, they could be raking in some dollars and increasing their standard of living.  It's not a matter of them not being able to do anything else.

Bob: But fewer and fewer of their peers are making the choice that they're making.

Dennis: Well, you know, Bob, I kind of wonder if that's the case at points.  I haven't heard any fresh statistics on this.  In fact, maybe our guest on today's program, Donna Otto – welcome, Donna, welcome to the broadcast.

Donna: Thank you, it's great to be here.

Dennis: Bob and I are just going to be passionate about this subject.

Donna: Can I just applaud?

Dennis: I see you over there going, "Amen," thumbs up, and being quiet about your applause.  Donna is the founder of Homemakers by Choice, and brand-new organization that's committed to just what we're talking about, is that right?

Donna: Yes, and a minute ago I thought maybe I wasn't necessary in this conversation.

Bob: It's nice to have a higher-pitched voice who is affirming what we're talking about here.


Dennis: There are a lot of women who could really affirm what Bob is saying there.  They're going, "That's exactly right."  Those guys are not going to sit back and talk about homemaking.  You better have a woman on the program.

Bob: What about it?  Are there more women today staying at home, fewer women staying at home?  What's the status of homemaking?

Donna: Okay, there is a huge resurgence of women not founded in the church – I wish it were, but it's true, they are not founded in the church.  They are making, as you just said, as your daughters and daughters-in-law are capable of making high salaries, these are singularly the most educated women that have ever walked the face of the earth.  They have careers, they have experiences, and they have education.  Now, that group is suddenly says, "My possession" – now, remember they're not in the church – so my possession, my child, is going to get me because I want my child to represent me and my husband.

Dennis: So they're finding their purpose in their children.

Donna: They are finding their purpose in their children, they are finding a sense of no one can keep my child as safe and secure as I can, so I'm going to leave my job.  Now, technology has changed her job.  She can do some of her job from anywhere.  "I'm going to leave my office surroundings, go back home and raise my own child."  And when they get there, they don't have a lot of experience at it, so they're calling us up and saying, "Help."

Bob: You know, it's been interesting to hear Dr. Laura on the radio, as she's been waving the flag for the last, I don't know, five or six years in the culture saying, "I am my child's mom, I'm going to take care – if you don't have a child and bring it into the world unless you're going to take care of it," and that's starting to resonate with some folks, isn't it?

Donna: It is and, you know, I like what she says because of just what you refer to.  But she stops.  She stops short, obviously, because she's not saying, "Okay, here is this sinner child who came into this world with his Adam's nature and his temperament, and you, Mother, have been given the greatest job of all to mold and shape this child; to get this child to a place where he can make his own choice about his future in Christ."  So I think while Laura has done a good job, and she has, and she says a lot of things I would lift up my hand and say, "Good, go girl," but the reality is she stops very short of empowering a woman with the authority that God empowered her with.

Dennis: Well, frankly, we ought to be thrilled she's made the point, because what she's doing, she's setting the table for some great evangelistic efforts because after those women go home and they start raising these little selfish, sinful, depraved children, who have those natures that are totally bent on their own greed and their own sinful choices, they're going to need help.  So who and where are they going to go for help?

Donna: Homemakers by Choice – can I say that?

Dennis: Well, I did say that, but, you know, Homemakers by Choice can't be in every location like the church is today.  It's the church that ought to be seizing the opportunity of hanging a banner out in front looking for help in raising the next generation.  We've got some training classes.  We want to equip you as a mom.  We want to equip you as parents to be able to shape the conscience and the spiritual direction of the next generation.

 Bob, you and I have talked many times about how there are key and pivotal points in our lives when, all of a sudden, we become very teachable.  One is when we take a spouse, and we get married.

Bob: And we realize what we didn't know.


Dennis: I became extremely teachable.  I realized that there was a boy who had to grow up at that point.  There is another moment that is a profound moment, and I remember when they handed that little bundle to me after 24 hours of labor, and Ashley was placed in my arms, and I'm going, "There's no instructions accompanying this.  How do we do this?"  And I think, Donna, the need for your ministry is evident in that there is a whole generation of young women today who aren't coming out of solidly Christian homes that have all this great vast amount of teaching that has impacted them.  Many of them are coming out of broken homes, they're coming out of homes that didn't have spiritual values, and so they really need material, and that really motivated you to write a book called "Finding Your Purpose as a Mom," your seventh book.  It's why you wrote it.

Donna: It's why I wrote it, yes.  It was partly – the subtitle of that book is "Building Your Home on Holy Ground," and I had a holy ground moment.  I came into my home, took off my shoes, as I prefer to do anywhere, anytime – barefoot am I happy – and I live in the desert, and my tile was cool, and as I walked through my own home on my cool tile, and my feet were bare, suddenly the reminder of that passage in Exodus was so clear to me.  It was just one of those moments in time – "Take off your shoes, this is holy ground."  And I became very emotional in my own home, because I thought, this home – this mortar, walls, brick, tile – there's nothing holy about them except that the people who live in this home are holy because Christ lives within them.  So my heart was, okay, so the young woman who was raised in just the home you described, Dennis, just not even aware of Bible stories, doesn’t know Joseph from Samuel, is now saying, "What is my home but chaos.  There is no calm here," and I am remembering, "Take off your shoes, this is holy ground."  What makes it holy ground?  So my first thought is I want to help that woman find out who she is, being intentional about who she is.

 And then, secondly, I want her to understand that within the four walls of her home, she is still – I don't care what the culture tells her – she is still the atmosphere-setter of her home.

Dennis: You approach this subject of what a home is by defining what it's not.  You help us out by doing that, because there are a lot of misconceptions about a home.  Share with our listeners what a home is not.

Donna: Well, and I want to start with – I say it's not bricks and mortar, but the physical place called home is bricks and mortar, and we have turned that, in some ways to our credit, into all sorts of other things besides a home, and the old line of "Your husband is the king, and he's coming home to his castle," is laughable to some members of this generation.  But the truth is, home is not a restaurant, and since the microwave it has become a restaurant.  You can fix a meal for anybody, anytime, anywhere.  Home is not a schoolroom, and I know you have a lot of homeschoolers that are listening, and I have a lot of homeschoolers in the ministry, but be careful that you don't turn that home into a schoolhouse, into a schoolroom.  It's not an arcade, and today everybody has their own CD, everybody has their own Gameboy, their iPods, their – listen to me, I sound like I know what I'm talking about, and I don't know any of this technology at all.  I wouldn't recognize it if you showed it to me.

 But the truth is, it's become an arcade, and everybody is playing their games by themselves – another tragic part of this technology that has separated the family – making them feel they're close to one another.  Home is not a computer office.  We've got so many offices now in home – one of the largest asset in selling real estate is if somewhere on that information blank is says there is a home office with some high-level of technology available with it, because we're working from home.  Well, all right, if that's what you have to do, but then I'm saying to the wife, make sure that the places that the family needs to be together as a family have the first priority of the physical surroundings.  And I've really – I believe in that so strongly, and I think that's the tone.  It's the tone that I've set, but I also know that's what a lot of women are afraid of.

Bob: Okay, help me think through this, because you've said that the home is holy ground, and we're not talking about the bricks and the mortar, we're talking about the people who are there.  You've said it shouldn't wind up defaulting to laundromat or office or arcade or any of the rest.  What should it be, what's the mission, what's the holy mission of the home?

Donna: It's a safe place where God's work gets done.  It's a safe place where God's work gets done, and what is His first work as a parent – and that is to train up a child so that he can make a choice for Jesus.  And He has to see authentic Christianity lived out in that house, and that does happen amidst those things.  You know, I say home is not a museum, it's not a hotel, there are a lot of things it's not, and yet you just – a number of those pieces together –

Bob: Sure, we eat in a home, so it's not a restaurant, but we do eat there, we do our laundry there, we do work on the computer there, but it shouldn't define what the home is, that's what you're saying, right?

Donna: Exactly.  If the basic principle of what home is is creating these young people to understand who God is and see authentic Christian life that they might choose for Christ in their generation, then it involves all of those activities happening, but the priority is always Christ.

Dennis: I just want to comment on the concept that home is a safe, a safe place, and you say it should reflect Christ.  Well, who is Christ?  He is love.  God is love.  And I don't want to just take the obvious here and act like our listening audience doesn't know this, but I think we've lost the concept of relationships and love in our home and realizing that family is the place, home is the place where we learn how to love another selfish, sinful, human being, whether it's our brother, our sister, our parents – we first get the concept of how you love another person at home.  And who is the one who trains us to do that?  Well, primarily, I believe it's Mom and Dad.

Donna: Absolutely.

Dennis: And so as you shape the purpose of your home as a young mom, I want to take you all the way back up to where your love was first forged that started that family in the first place – it's called your marriage covenant.

Donna: That's right.

Dennis: I just want to go back, and our listeners know I talk about this a lot, but I just think today we don't have good definitions of love, and there is no better definition of love than a covenant.  It's an inseparable commitment to another person for a lifetime.  It says "I'm going to go the distance regardless of how unlovable you might become or I might become.  I'm going to stick it out with you," and that's where these little kiddos are getting their picture of what it looks like to have a home.  And you're saying that moms, when they do that, are truly homemakers by choice, right?

Donna: Absolutely, and what you say in that covenant love is that it is authentic.  He is not perfect.  We have this 24/7 channels on television that tell us about home-embroidered sheets and menus and divine gourmet meals, and we can't get the laundry done regularly.  We can't put a meal on the table the whole family can sit civilly through.  Where is the duplicity and inconsistency in that?  And I couldn't be more – it starts there, it starts with that love relationship, and that love relationship brings a peacefulness to the home, irrespective of its surroundings.

Dennis: Yeah, I want to hitchhike off your word – you said it's "authentic," it's real.  That means when we fail, not if we fail, but when we fail we show our children how you move through your failure with another person.  You show them how to ask for forgiveness, how another person forgives you.  You show how you make up, you show how you make restitution, you show how you reconcile.  You show them that thousands of times.  You're going to show them that so many times you're going to grow weary of showing them that, but there's a reason why you're showing them that – because for the rest of their lives, they're going to offend, and they're going to be offended.  They're going to have to forgive, and they're going to have to ask for forgiveness.  They're going to have to reconcile, and they're going to have to be reconciled, and they're going to have to make restitution for how they hurt another person.

Bob: You know, honestly, when you gave this definition of home as a safe place where someone can make a decision for Christ, I thought, "Well, how hard can that be?"  I mean, really, how hard can that be – you make a safe place where somebody can make a decision for Christ, that will take a couple of days, what will you do the rest of the time?

Dennis: I can tell you how hard it is, I can tell you how hard it is.

Donna: The "D" on your forehead is showing.


Dennis:  Will you stop laughing so I can make my point – for 29 years Barbara and I raised children.  I'm telling you, it defined our lives.  It is tough to have a good family that does that one thing Donna's talking about here – that makes it a safe place to experience the love of Christ and to introduce them to who God is.  If it happened naturally, it would be like gravity.

Bob: Well, it's because we're not just talking about making a safe place where a child can have a momentary conversion experience or can pray a prayer, and then we're done.

Dennis: Well said.

Bob: We're talking about a place where we can model and demonstrate and live out authentic Christianity so a child can go, "I get it, I see it, I understand it, I embrace it, I follow it, I give my life to it."  That does take more than just a couple of days to pull of, doesn't it?

Donna: Well, that was very nice of you to condescend that way.  Well, and as you were talking, I was thinking about one of the things you learn in a family unit is to accept acceptance.  And the other thing is you learn not to have an agenda for someone else.  It means when you live with a brother and a sister and a mother and a father that Papa has no agenda for Mama, and Mama has no agenda for Papa, and big brother doesn't have an agenda for little sister, and we all don't come out looking alike.  We come out with God's imprint as the best of our potential possible because we lived in a family that accepts acceptance from Christ, and that's no easy job.

Bob: But when you say "no agenda," I mean, I've got an agenda for my kids in terms of their faithfulness to Christ.  What's the difference between having no agenda and me having that agenda for them?

Donna: Well, you know, I like to use the word "standard" and not "agenda."

Bob: Okay.

Donna: I think agenda – maybe it's more of a cultural word.  When you say "I have an agenda for someone," it typically means you have a plan for their life.

Dennis: Yeah, I'm trying to control them.

Donna: Yes, exactly, and I want them to look like me.  I have one daughter, and she really does look like me.  She just graduated – is there a bragging moment here for a moment?

Bob: Please go ahead.

Donna: Just graduated from Fuller with a master's of divinity – wonderful teacher, wonderful Bible scholar and just gave us our first grandchild – okay, I'll show the pictures later.  But when I looked at her, she looks very much like me – the same dark hair, the same big nose, dark looking, she looks like me.  And I can remember the years when I had an agenda for her.  I wanted her to do it my way. 

 Now, in some ways we are very much alike, personality-wise, but I was having to learn the differences in my daughter from me and not have an agenda for her.

Dennis: You know, if you want something that is perfect and the same, and you can set the agenda, then make a batch of cookies and use a cookie cutter.  But if you want something that's going to be different, that's going to challenge you to the core, have a houseful of kids, because they will be different.  They may come from the same two people, but they will have the imprint of God stamped upon their lives, but they will be very different in personality and looks and behavior, and they will challenge you to your core, because they won't be motivated in the same way.  But that's why I think being a mom is so important.  Because it demands a skill level – I mean, I'm sorry, but I brag on my daughters.  I now have four of them who are married and have chosen to stay home.  They are having children, lots of children.  We now have eight grandchildren, and I look at my daughter, Ashley, who has now had her fourth child – she could do a lot of things.  She's a talented woman. 

 Bob, to help get through med school, she came in here once a month and did some radio with you for a weekend broadcast.  It didn't take away from the children.  They needed a break from her, and it was good for her at that point.  But, you know, there is no more noble calling, no more dignity in terms of a path for how you use your life than to invest in a houseful of kids.

Bob: I was reading an article online just recently – I don't know if you've seen this professor from a university on the East Coast who has been on morning talk shows and has been written up in a number of newspapers.  She is telling capable, talented young women who choose to stay at home that they are betraying the feminist agenda, and that it should not be an option for them to stay at home.  They have a social obligation to get back out into the marketplace and, I guess, let somebody else raise their children.

 Well, I don't know whose thinking today is counter-cultural – whether it's her thinking or Donna's thinking, but I know more of our listeners would support the idea that motherhood ought to be, at the very least, a choice for any woman and certainly a priority for a woman who wants to honor and please God.  And yet we've got a lot of women today, a lot of young women who, when they think about homemaking and motherhood, there is a blank screen that comes up, because they haven't had any instruction, and they didn't have any good modeling, and they need help. 

And that's what you have tried to provide for a lot of young moms, Donna, in your book, "Finding Your Purpose as a Mom, How to Build Your Home on Holy Ground."  We have the book in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and I want to encourage our listeners to go to our website,, and click the button that says "Go," in the middle of the home page.  That will take you right to a place where you can find out more about Donna's book.  You can order a copy of it, if you'd like.  Again, the title is called "Finding Your Purpose As a Mom." 

We also have copies of a book you wrote called "Secrets to Getting More Done in Less Time," and any of our listeners who are interested in getting both of these books, we will send along at no additional cost the CD that features our conversation with Donna Otto.  We'll also send you a bookmark that has many of your mottos – Otto's Mottos – on it.  Again, there's more information about these resources on our website at, or you can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY.  That's 1-800-358-6329, and someone can let you know how you can get these books or other resources sent out to you.

When you do get in touch with us, if you are able this month to help us with a donation for the ministry of FamilyLife Today, there is an opportunity for that donation to go a little farther than it otherwise might go.  We've had some friends of the ministry who came to us recently who are excited about the direction things are going here at FamilyLife; how God is using this ministry; and they offered, during the month of May, to match every donation we receive from listeners on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to a total of $350,000.  They are excited about what God is doing here.  They want you to be excited about it as well, and they thought maybe they could encourage you to make donation this month by offering to double that donation.

So we are hoping to take full advantage of their generosity, but if we're going to do that, we need as many of you as possible to go to our website,, make a donation online or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY, making a donation over the phone and, again, whatever amount you donate, it's going to be doubled thanks to this matching gift opportunity.  The website, again, is, and the toll-free number is 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.  And we hope to hear from you.

Tomorrow we want to talk about what you can do to make your home a more peaceful home, and I hope you can be with us for that conversation. 

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 next time 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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