We are delighted to share this interview from our Titus 2 woman series with Glynnis Whitwer, executive director of communications at Proverbs 31 Ministries, first published in the ABIDE issue of Joyful Life Magazine. We hope you will be encouraged by the wisdom and experience this godly woman has to share about how God changed her heart and attitude toward her parenting, her marriage, and her work; and how saying ‘yes’ reluctantly to a cross-country move finally helped strip away her own self-reliance in favor of a greater dependence on God.
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What is your salvation story?
I grew up in church, the daughter of a faithful mother who brought me and my little sister there every week, despite the fact that my father was not a believer. I believed in God at an early age, and never doubted that I was a sinner who needed a Savior named Jesus. But it wasn’t until I was older that my faith moved from academic to actual faith. That happened when I moved across country and realized I’d placed my trust in myself and in my own ability to accomplish tasks and projects.
When I didn’t have any tasks or projects to accomplish, God started to uncover my unhealthy self-dependence, and He met me in an entirely new way that unfolded over years.
If you could rewind life—what is something you would have changed about yours? What would you do differently in hindsight?
I spent the first six years of raising my children trying to regain my old life. I loved being a mom. But I thought my ‘ministry’ was outside my home—like at church.
It wasn’t until I connected with Proverbs 31 Ministries that I understood my first line of ministry was inside my own home. And until that was my first priority, I would be neglecting God’s priorities for me. Everything changed for me when I understood that motherhood was a high calling.
I wish I could go back and relive those six years. I would have been a lot less stressed, and so would everyone else.
What are some ways in which you have intentionally purposed to ‘build up your home’?
After realizing home was my first line of ministry, I made intentional decisions to foster greater peace at home. I realized there were things that caused me stress, like clutter and noise. So I worked hard to bring order to my home, and we only had the TV on at certain times.
There was also a season when I made a decision to stop speaking at women’s events. Every time I was gone, something traumatic happened. This was after we had adopted two girls. Although my children were older, I knew God was calling me to be home more. So I made a lot of decisions to make sure I was home more.
Finally, as my children got older, God clearly told me to make my home a place my kids wanted to come home to. That meant keeping my opinions to myself more and always making them feel welcome. That has been an important decision in keeping my relationship with my adult children close.
What are three ways you have prioritized building up your husband and/or strengthening your marriage?
When my husband and I were first married, he was very messy. He would drop items of clothing everywhere. I clearly remember the day when I had to make a decision. I was either going to turn into a nag or I was just going to pick up after him and never say a word. So I decided to pick up after him. Eventually, without me ever saying anything, he started to pick up after himself. Now, he’s very possibly neater than I am.
Our relationship also changed when I learned his love language was words of affirmation. That’s not mine, so I was always trying to show how much I loved him by doing things for him. When I did try to affirm him, I always felt like I was being fake for verbalizing what seemed obvious to me. But it really matters to him to have my approval so I try to say one or two things every day that build him up.
Finally, I’ve learned to not make comments about any other man, even positive. My husband didn’t grow up in a home with unconditional love, so he has some deep heart needs. I’ve learned that even positive observations about other men can begin to make him wonder if I think he’s weak in the area I’m complimenting.
What was your most difficult season of motherhood or marriage and how did God use that season of struggle to grow you and strengthen your faith?
The most difficult season of motherhood was when my children were babies. I’m wired to work and do things, so it was hard to sit and just be present with them. I always wanted to be ‘doing’ something. I needed to learn that being present was the best work I could have done in that season.
God tried to communicate with me to slow down, but I didn’t listen. Although I did cut my work back to part-time, with three small boys, I needed to cut other things out of my life as well, like church and volunteer commitments.
I wore my busyness like a badge of honor. It took God moving me across country, and removing all my options for work and achievements, to understand that I needed to consider my heart first and foremost, and learn to be content in the season I was in.
What is one thing you believe younger mothers struggle with today that wasn’t a struggle when you were younger—and what is your advice to equip them for the battle?
We didn’t have social media or reality TV when I was young and raising my kids. So while there were opportunities for comparison, it’s nothing like it is today. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to try to be a wife and mother with so many alternative ideas of what it ‘should’ look like and how to do it well.
My advice would be to make sure you make time for real, face-to-face friendships with women who share your values. It’s in those relationships that you can be honest about your struggles and make real life-changes.
If we only share the highlights of our lives, the hard parts will get harder and harder to share. As a result, we’ll start living in-authentic lives—because real life is messy.
What are some time management tips that have served you well that could be a benefit to younger moms?
One of the best time-management tips I’ve learned is to prepare for the day the night before. Mornings are crazy for moms, so it’s important to think through the day before you hit the gas pedal. This means planning for papers that need to be signed, cash that you might need to send, gathering things to take to work or school, etc. You may forget something. But at least you’ll have prepared to your best ability.
I’m also a big menu planner. So, once a week, I would take the grocery ads and plan a menu around the sale items. I would plan every meal of the day, including snacks. Then I’d make a shopping list according to the meal plan, and post the meal plan on the fridge. My kids LOVED knowing what was for dinner, and it removed one of the biggest stresses of my life—decision fatigue.
What was one parenting or family priority that you embraced throughout the years of raising your children that you now see bearing sweet fruit in their lives as they have grown older?
When our children were very young we started making vacations a priority. We were senior high youth group advisors for seven years before we started having kids. Through the years, we realized our senior high students always talked about vacations as a highlight of their growing-up years—and that they didn’t have to be expensive vacations to be impactful.
As we evaluated this, we realized that while on vacation kids have mom and dad’s full attention. Of course, now parents can take cell phones, but back then we couldn’t. So we decided vacations would be a way to invest in our kids and in our relationships as a family.
With three boys, camping was the best vacation when they were young. We bought a tent trailer so I could sleep on a bed and we took a lot of camping trips.
As they got older, we started visiting National Parks. We bought a National Park Passport to record our visits and even made trips across the country to visit parks like Acadia in Maine.
When we adopted two girls in 2005 our vacations changed a bit. By then we could afford different types of trips and needed more space with seven of us. The very best family trips, if you can believe it, are cruises. Although they can be expensive—no one has cell phones. We spend our days together, enjoy dinner every night, and play games in the evening.
Our kids are in their 20s now and we are still planning family vacations. But now we are renting houses!
What would you say to encourage a mother who is struggling with growing ‘weary in doing well’ in the midst of her current season of raising children?
I can remember so clearly the daily exhaustion of caring for little ones, especially those who need more one-on-one attention. It’s so easy to forget who you are in the midst of that. So I have two pieces of advice:
Find ways to invest in who you are and in what brings you joy. That might be finding time for art or reading or exercising. It’s important that you remember what makes you you.
Get babysitting help so you can have a break. For two years I lived in a neighborhood with a babysitting co-op. It was well organized and the moms earned points by watching other kids and then spent them to have time alone. These were moms that had proven their trustworthiness and were safe. If you can’t find a co-op, start one. Or find a homeschooling family who might help.
It’s not selfish to take breaks. Everyone will be blessed by a more-rested mom and wife.
Tell us about a time in your life when you questioned whether God was with you in the midst of a difficult or painful circumstance. Were you able to see clearly after the fact where He had been at work all along?
In 1998, my husband took a job across country for two years. I didn’t want to move. And I was pretty vocal about it. I didn’t want to leave my job, church, volunteer position, family, home, etc. I loved everything about my life back then and thought my husband was being extremely selfish.
But for the first time in my Christian life, I heard God clearly speak to me. He told me to tell my husband yes.
We moved, and I was miserable. I cried all the time. And although I didn’t fall into a true depression, I was really sad and had no joy or hope. I thought God had sent me away for two years to live in darkness. I determined to just get through it and then return home and get on with my life.
But God had another plan. Within a few months, God sent us to a church where Lysa TerKeurst gave her testimony. Later, that same week, I heard her on the radio. It was then that God spoke to me a second time and said, “Call her and volunteer.”
Somehow I got her phone number, called her and told her I had a degree in journalism and asked if they needed any help. To my shock, she replied,
“We’ve been praying for someone with a degree in journalism.”
That was 20 years ago, and God completely changed my life because of that meeting. I went on to volunteer with Proverbs 31 Ministries, then took a small job as their newsletter editor. Over time, that job continued to grow until I eventually became an executive director.
Only He could have orchestrated that. God first changed my heart, then my marriage, then my parenting—and ultimately has used me to impact millions of others. And it all started with saying yes to God and yes to my husband.