If My Heart Could Talk

A Story of Family, Faith, and Miracles


By Dodie Osteen

Foreword by Joel Osteen

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Dodie Osteen, mother of Joel Osteen, gives readers a personal account of her extraordinary life and shares what she has learned about love, faith, and family.

As the wife of forty-four years to the late Pastor John Osteen, founder of Lakewood Church, Dodie Osteen stood as a wife, mother, and first lady of the church, even when life felt anything but steady. Today, she continues to stand by her son, Pastor Joel Osteen, and the rest of their family as they lead Lakewood. In this revealing memoir, Dodie shares that her path, though glorious, has not always been easy. She shows an intimate look at such life-altering experiences as contracting polio as a child, raising 5 children, battling cancer, and losing her husband, all with the beautiful heart and sense of humor she displays to thousands at Lakewood and nationwide at Night of Hope events. While recounting her journey, Dodie offers readers meaningful life lessons applicable to their own lives.


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Foreword by Joel Osteen

I may be a little biased, but I truly believe that my mother is the most amazing mother in the world. Her love, kindness, generosity, and strength of faith have inspired not only me but also countless others around the world. I love her dearly and feel honored to call her my mother.

When I was growing up, my mother ran a household with five very active children, a husband, a dog and countless other pets, cooked, cleaned, did endless piles of laundry and stacks of dishes… and she somehow made it look easy. Oh, and there was also helping with a fast-growing church that had hundreds of needs to be met. She seemed to never run out of energy, and she had a way of always making things fun along the way.

I don't recall ever leaving for school in the morning without my mother praying over me. And it wasn't just a "God bless the children" prayer. She would pray a hedge of protection around me and confidently speak God's favor over my life and that I would excel in every way. I wish that every child going to school today could feel what it means to know that God is going with them to school as I did.

That is just who my mother is—a woman of faith whose life and ministry were shaped through adversity and great challenges. As you read this book, you'll see exactly what I mean, and I have no doubt that you'll be inspired by her message.

The beauty of my mother's life is that she is a woman of great integrity. For me, that means she is the same at home as she is in the church and whenever she is in front of other people. She isn't perfect, and she's never pretended to be. But there has never been a double standard with Mother. Her sincerity has had a tremendous impact on me and my siblings, and I'm sure it's a significant reason why today all five of us are working in the ministry.

Mother is a constant source of inspiration to us.

I think of how my mother refused to be a victim when, as a young girl, she developed the dreaded disease of polio and had to wear a heavy brace on her leg for many years. She could have easily said, "God, this isn't fair. Why did this happen to me?" But she saw herself as the victor, and God brought her out of that difficulty.

When my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer back in 1981, she could easily have come home and just sunk into a deep pit of depression. I'll never forget what a shock that news was to our family. But my mother never gave up. She refused to speak words of defeat. She didn't complain about how sick or weak she felt or how hopeless her situation looked. No, she chose to put God's words in her mind and in her mouth. All during the day, we'd hear Mother going through the house speaking aloud, "I shall not die but live, and declare the works of the Lord" from Psalm 118. I'd say, "Mother, how are you doing?" She'd say, "Joel, I'm strong in the Lord and the power of His might." As Mother mixed her words with God's words, something powerful began to happen, and as you'll read, she received her amazing healing. Mother remains cancer-free, healed by the power of God and His Word!

There's so much I could tell you about my mother. I could tell you about how much she loved and adored my father. No matter what Daddy faced through the years, he always knew that she was for him one hundred percent, and to Daddy that was all that really mattered. They were a team, and what they accomplished, they accomplished together. Growing up, I saw that and felt that and it impacted me profoundly.

And when Daddy departed this life and went to Heaven, Mother didn't fade away and go sit at home. In a time of profound loss and sadness, she realized that God still had great things in store for her, and she has soared in a God-sized way. It has been awesome to watch. I know that Daddy is smiling, and so am I.

There is a lot of my mother's life, example, and wisdom in this book. The lessons she taught me have changed my life, and these simple truths can change your life as well.

Joel Osteen

Chapter 1

This Pilgrim Made Progress

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD.

Psalm 37:23

Pelly, Texas. You've probably never heard of it, but that's where I was born on October 22, 1933. You don't have to do the math; I am eighty-two years young at the time of this writing and still going strong. I never plan to retire! I have too much to do for Jesus.

Dolores Ann Pilgrim is what my sweet parents named me. For many years my nickname was Pooky, but eventually Dodie became the nickname that stuck. Over the years, people have often referred to me as Pastor John Osteen's wife. He was the founder of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, and a remarkable husband, father, and man of God. Now many refer to me as Joel Osteen's mother! But I'm just Dodie, a lady who loves God and people and a mother of five wonderful children who all happen to be in the full-time ministry. I hope that as I share bits of my story with you, you will be encouraged and blessed.

So back to my little town. Pelly was a town about thirty-seven miles east of Houston near the Goose Creek Oil Field. It was the home of the Humble Oil and Refining Company, which is now one of the largest ExxonMobil refineries in the world. In 1948, Pelly was renamed Baytown because it is located on the mouth of the San Jacinto River on Galveston Bay. I guess that's why I always loved being around water and the beach.

I was the only child born to Roy and Georgia Pilgrim, the best parents a daughter could ever wish for. They were good people. Good in the sense that they loved God, took me to church on Sundays, and showered me with love. But they were also good to people and went out of their way to lend a helping hand and to simply bless others. It was not unusual for Daddy to mow a neighbor's lawn just to help them out or for Mother to bake one of her delicious cherry pies or German chocolate cakes for friends, neighbors, or church members. They lived a good life, but it wasn't without overcoming some of life's greatest challenges.

Daddy was born in 1905 in the small town of Pine in central Texas as one of five children. There were four boys and one girl. He was only four years old when tragedy struck his family for the first time. It was around Christmastime, and Daddy and his brother were playing with firecrackers when one of the firecrackers landed on the roof and caught the house on fire. His mother ran out of the house with their tiny four-day-old baby brother. She had not yet recovered from the delivery, and as she ran she stumbled and fell and began to bleed profusely. Daddy said he vividly remembers his mother running fast, leaving a trail of blood behind her the whole way. Eventually she hemorrhaged to death. What a blow it was to the family!

Granddaddy Pilgrim did his best to work hard and take care of the children, but three years later tragedy struck a second time when he went to Scott and White Hospital in Tyler, Texas, thinking he was going to have a hernia repaired. He was a logger who worked hard lifting heavy logs all day. As he was being driven to the hospital in a horse and buggy, he said something no one ever forgot: "They will bring my body back home in a box." Those words came true. I guess Granddaddy had a sense that he was not going to live long.

My daddy told the story of how he rode home in the buggy that carried his father's casket to Willow Oak Cemetery—the creaking of the buggy and the wooden box that carried the shattered hopes and dreams of his family. What a tall order for such a young boy.

So by the time Daddy was only seven years old, he and his siblings were orphans. They needed parents, and they deserved good ones. Relatives came in and divided the children up, taking them into their homes. The children were separated, but at least they had someplace to call home and someone to call family.

Daddy didn't have an easy life and was treated badly. He had to sleep in the barn and wasn't allowed to attend school past junior high because he was required to work in the fields. His pay was only about fifty cents a week, and at Christmastime he would only get a quarter and an orange. Daddy may have only had an eighth-grade education, but he was always smart in my book. At eighteen years old, he packed his bags and started out on his own. At first he got a job building bridges with the railroad, but later he moved to Pelly and began working in the refineries of Humble Oil. He endured the heat, the heavy physical toil, and the toll both took, but he didn't complain; despite the hardships, he was never a victim.

My daddy was a slender, handsome man, part American Indian, who stood five feet eleven inches tall. Soon after settling in Pelly, he met my mother, Georgia Lee Case, a beautiful young woman who grew up there. Mother was the oldest of six children and a true Southern lady. She never met a stranger. To her, everyone was "Honey," "Darling," or "Sweetheart." Mother's daddy worked for Gulf Oil, and they lived in a pretty little house on the water. She and Daddy started dating soon after they met.

Mother made Daddy very happy, and her family adored him. They got married on August 4, 1928, and spent their honeymoon on Galveston Island. I have a picture of them taken on the beach in front of a famous restaurant in the background. I took the picture to show the owner and his family wanted a copy. It still hangs in the restaurant there on the beach today. Mother was only eighteen when she and Daddy married, and five years later I was born.

Daddy may have had a rough start, but as God always does, He redeems our past and makes all things new. He promises a good and bright future, one with hope and goodness. I think Daddy wouldn't have been the great man he was if not for his past, because he learned to treat people right—with the dignity and respect they deserved. Instead of becoming bitter about his losses and hardships, by the grace of God he became a blessing to Mother, to me, and to countless others.


As you can probably tell, I have always had a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for my daddy. He was a man with strong hands and a soft heart. Daddy worked extremely hard to provide for Mother and me. One day they took me to a store and bought me ten dresses at one time! I was so blessed. Both Mother and Daddy treated me like a queen.

My dad also had a big heart for the community. He volunteered as a deputy sheriff and was a great helper of widows. He would mow lawns for them or repair things around their houses. He also loved to care for servicemen. Mother and Daddy would often open up our home to those in the military stationed in Baytown. When wives came to visit on the weekends, they would stay in our spare bedroom to help save them from the expenses of hotels. Everyone tried to be patriotic during the war in the 1940s. I loved having people in my house and looked forward to visiting with them.

Daddy would help anyone in need when he could, and that included Mother! Even after a long day at work, he was always willing to help her in the house. He'd usually recruit me to be his assistant, and we would have the best time. Mother might have been a perfectionist when cleaning, but we weren't, and she never knew it!

Out of thirty-seven years working at the oil refinery, Daddy only missed five days of work because of sickness. Hard work goes a long way! You may not be the richest person financially, but like my dad, you can be rich because you know Jesus and build loving relationships. Daddy didn't grow up having a good home life, so he put great effort into being a wonderful husband and father. He honored God and kept a good attitude, even when times were hard. Because he honored God, God honored him.

Daddy worked hard and retired at the age of fifty-seven, mainly so he and Mother could give their time to John and me, our family, and the growing church. My children loved their grandparents and couldn't wait to spend time with them, especially when John and I would travel. Sometimes I think the children wanted John and me to leave so their grandparents could come to our home. (Those little turkeys!) Because my children were their only grandchildren, they were their grandparents' world, and Mother and Daddy would do anything they could to make things easier for John and me, including cooking and cleaning while we were away. There were nights when we would get home and Daddy would have raked leaves for eight hours at a time!

On top of all they did, Mother and Daddy always gave our children their "old car" when they bought a new one. Paul and Lisa got his gold Buick Skylark with a white roof, and Tamara and Joel got a green Buick LeSabre that was dubbed "the Tank" because it was so big. The children loved it and looked forward to those huge clunkers they would get someday! They were so thankful.

Daddy also volunteered at Lakewood when we were at the old campus. He would drive to Houston and work on plumbing or in the yard all day long. He would do anything that was asked of him.

Even after I had been married for thirty-five years, Daddy used to come to my house nearly every month and bring me money. I used to say, "Daddy, I don't need money. Everything is good with us. John is taking good care of me." But still he would say, "Take it. I want you to have some fun money!" He was incredibly giving. It was one thousand dollars every time and that touched me.


The lesson from my dad that has been etched the deepest in my mind and heart is this: Our greatest focus should be to love and serve people the way Jesus would. Daddy didn't get caught up in all of the rules and regulations that are often put on Christians. He simply lived the way the Bible said to live.

He took to heart the words in James 1:27, which tell us that pure and genuine religion in the sight of God is caring for orphans and widows in the midst of their distress. Daddy would care for anyone, no matter who they were or what kind of life they had lived. We should all be careful to not get so caught up in religious rules that we lose sight of why Jesus came in the first place—to love and to serve. The Bible says that real Christianity isn't about perfectly following a set of rules. It's about caring for the hurting people around us, so that through our love they will see Jesus' love, the ultimate love.

We are God's best witnesses when we are demonstrating His heart. That's why Jesus lived the way He did! He didn't spend all His time trying to prove that He was God's Son; instead, He let His actions speak for themselves. If we too will let our actions do the talking, we can become the best preachers those around us will ever hear.


Both of my parents are in Heaven now. They were married over sixty-eight years when Mother died at the age of eighty-seven. Daddy died a few years later on 9/11 at the age of ninety-six. I'm so glad he didn't have to face the terrible news of that day. These Pilgrims finished their journeys with joy, and I believe Heaven rejoiced to receive them home into their final destination.

Losing my parents was not easy for me, but God helped me. When your loved ones are gone, you miss them, but when you know they fulfilled their purpose and that they are with Jesus, it brings you a great sense of joy to know that they are happy—the happiest they've ever been.

It reminds me of what the apostle Paul said to Timothy in the Bible as he is nearing the end of his life here on earth: "The time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day" (2 Timothy 4:6–8 NIV).

Paul knew that he had fulfilled God's purposes for his life. He knew that he had run the race God had marked out for him well, and he was ready to receive the reward He had for him. Jesus saw all the good that my parents did for others, and when they met Jesus, I think He said, "Well done, my good and faithful servants."


Aren't we all pilgrims on a journey? We are headed to our heavenly home, but in the meantime Jesus made this promise: "The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows]" (John 10:10 AMP). Even in the hard times, God says that you can enjoy life and His abundant blessings.

God formed you in your mother's womb and created you for His purposes. As with Daddy, it's not where you start in life that counts. If you will simply give your life to Jesus, He will place you on a new path—a good path on which your life can be different and make a difference.

You too may have had a rough start. It hurts to hear the stories of children being abused, neglected, or abandoned and to see men and women devastated by divorce or loss. These things happen and may have happened to you, but your story is not over. Don't allow your past, your hurt, or your tragedy to define your future. You are a pilgrim who is meant to make much progress. You can do it. God is on your side, and He will direct your steps throughout every part of your journey.

As was true for my daddy and mother, along our journeys we too should find ways that we can bless others. It could be something as simple as a smile to a stranger, a helping hand to the elderly, a hospital visit to the sick, or volunteering at your church. There are many ways that you can touch people in your world. All it takes is availability. That's all. Just be available for God to use you.

As I was conducting a prayer service a few years ago, a young woman approached me and whispered in my ear, "I am so ashamed. I was a prostitute, and I gave my heart to the Lord." It touched my heart deeply. I hugged her and prayed for her and asked her to sit on the front row with me. All this young woman needed was someone to care—to be the hands and feet of Jesus. You can be that to someone.

The story of my daddy's childhood always reminds me that God uses ordinary people for extraordinary purposes. My parents were simple people, salt of the earth, solid people, who loved God and people and were loved by everyone in return. God used them greatly in the lives of those around them.

The Bible tells us to never despise the days of "small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin" (Zechariah 4:10 NLT). It doesn't matter how ordinary your upbringing was or is—God can use you to do extraordinary things. Small starts can always lead to big finishes if you will allow Him to work through you.

There are plenty of other examples of this besides my own father. In fact, this same small-start/big-finish story line has been present since the beginning of time! We see it all throughout the Bible. Gideon was from a poor family, yet God used him in a great way. It was the same with David. He was just a shepherd boy, one of the lowliest jobs of the day. Esther was from a race that was looked down upon. Her people were threatened to be completely wiped out. But God made her the queen over those who plotted against her! Esther was used to bring a mighty deliverance to her people.

One young lady in the church told how she had come to Lakewood two years ago. She had been addicted to drugs, had no self-esteem, and was ashamed of her past. Not only that, she had been in jail five times. But she listened as the Word of God was taught, went to Bible classes during the week, and began to look and think differently. She is now a greeter in the church and beautiful inside and out.

God isn't limited by where you begin. No matter where you come from, with God's help you can become someone who makes a difference in this world. No matter where you are today, He can and will help you finish strong. That's what He did with all of these people, and that's what He did with my daddy. Because he loved Jesus, Daddy's life touched so many people, especially mine. He left behind a wonderful legacy for me.

We too can impact other people's lives and leave profound legacies if we choose to live not in the past, but to follow Jesus. One promise you can count on is that God will direct your steps on your personal journey.

Chapter 2

You Walk Like a Princess

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

1 Peter 2:9 NIV

At some point in every girl's life, she dreams of being a princess. She wants to talk like one, dress like one, and walk like one. Growing up, I was no exception. But while I often imagined myself in a princess ball gown and speaking like royals, I just couldn't see myself walking like the princesses in the books I'd read. Instead, I saw myself walking with the slight limp I'd had since I was young.

Though I've walked with this limp for as long as I can remember, I didn't start out that way. When I was one year old, I was walking on my own as most children do. But before I reached two, I was on my neighbor's porch when I stepped on a rotten board and I fell through and hit a tree stump. My parents said that I cried a little, but I wouldn't walk after that.

Then I began having an elevated temperature, and they realized something unusual was going on in my little body. The doctor first diagnosed me with a virus, but then he realized it was infantile paralysis, or polio as it was later known. My right leg and foot stopped growing normally, and I walked with a limp. I wore a brace on my right leg until I was in the fourth grade. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was diagnosed with the same virus at the age of thirty-nine and was in a wheelchair the rest of his life.

Mother and Daddy were discouraged by the diagnosis but were determined to make my life the best they possibly could. Every night Daddy would massage my leg to improve the blood circulation. My parents truly did all they could to help their little girl and only child.

I lived life as normally as I could, involving myself in as many activities as possible. I was the color guard in the Lee Brigadiers drum and bugle corps at my high school. I played tennis and other sports that didn't involve too much running. Still, I missed out on activities such as running and shopping for pretty shoes. To this day, I have to buy children's shoes because of my size twelve-and-a-half little foot on the smaller leg. My right foot is a whole inch and a half smaller than the other!

As I got older, the smaller leg grew easier to handle, but I continued to walk with a limp. Though I'd come to accept my little leg and foot and learned to hide it well, it still made me feel somewhat insecure. But one afternoon, many years later, a few words began to change my perspective on the whole situation. They helped me to see what true royalty looks like. These words were given to me after I was married to my wonderful husband, John Osteen.

The late Dr. T. L. Osborn, a great man of God, came to visit with John and me, and we were walking together. Out of the clear blue, he stopped, looked at me, and then said to John, "Look at Dodie. She walks like a princess."

As soon as Dr. Osborn said those wonderful words, tears filled the corners of my eyes and began to stream down my cheeks. I had always viewed myself with a focus on my limp, but Dr. Osborn saw me differently. His attitude inspired me to hold my head up high and to see myself through brand-new eyes: Dodie walks like a princess.

I decided that I would no longer focus on what I considered my weakness. Just because I have a limp doesn't mean I can't walk like a princess. That day I realized that God was using me despite my shortcomings, and that was a greater testimony than being physically flawless could ever be. I now see that we don't walk like a prince or princess because we're perfect; we walk like one because we're His.

Though those life-changing words were spoken over forty years ago, I've never forgotten them and I'm certain I never will. Dr. Osborn's encouragement may have been short and simple, but it brought to life something that had weighed on my mind and heart for all of those previous years. It reminded me that God sees me differently than the rest of the world. What some see as a flaw, God sees as beautiful. What some see as a disadvantage, God sees as an advantage, as a divine opportunity to show His power, because His power works best in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

I have been walking strong all these years, sharing God's love, praying for the sick, traveling all over the world, and doing what Jesus has called me to do. I plan on putting on many more miles because the Bible says God will satisfy us with long life (Psalm 91:16), and I am not satisfied yet!

Dr. Osborn went to Heaven on Valentine's Day 2013. A few days later, I received a letter in the mail from him that made me cry. It was found on his desk and not mailed until after his death. In it, he was encouraging me again. It was written in his own handwriting and will always be so precious to me.

No matter what kind of weakness you have—whether physical, relational, emotional, financial, or any other type—God loves you just the way you are. He sees you as His prince or princess and has a remarkable future planned for you. So don't ever give up!


On Sale
Apr 4, 2017
Page Count
288 pages

Dodie Osteen

About the Author

Dodie Osteen founded Lakewood Church with her late husband, John Osteen, in 1959. After a dramatic and miraculous healing from terminal cancer in 1981, God called Dodie into a special ministry of prayer. Through that ministry of compassion, she has touched the lives of millions of people both in Houston and around the world. Dodie is the author of Healed of Cancer and the daily devotional Choosing Life One Day at a Time. Dodie’s five children all serve in ministry and she has nineteen precious grandchildren.

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