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Hunting for Hope and Happiness

Air Date 04/02/2018

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Sharing their inspiring story of love and redemption, reality TV stars Phil and Kay Robertson reflect on the tumultuous first years of their marriage and how God transformed their relationship by working on them individually.

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Episode Transcript



Phil Robertson:I am thankful that God allowed us and gave us the ability to change our mind, to repent, and take a different course of action. It’s a wonderful thing that he allowed us to be able to stop and start over.You can be born again. And so the change that took place back there all those years ago - 43 years ago - the change that took place is literally stunning.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: Phil Robertson. You probably know him from A&E’s TV ShowDuck Dynastyand you’ll hear more from him and his wife, Miss Kay, today on Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller, thanks for joining us. Our host is Focus president and author Jim Daly.

Jim Daly: John, we’ve had several Robertson family members in our studios here in Colorado, but we thought it would be fun to go to West Munroe, Louisiana-- not just to eat some great cookin’, but to talk with the two that started it all, Phil and Miss Kay. I gotta tell ya, Trent and Troy, my two boys and I, we came across the DVDs and we started binge watching that.

John: Yeah, they kind of exploded on the scene--

Jim: Oh, it was so much fun!

John: -- and for some of us, we had no clue, but then you started thinking, what in the world are they gonna do next?

Jim: Just that folksy wisdom, the way Phil, you know, at the end of each show, he would pray as a family. They do a family mealtogether. I loved the values that were being communicated and that’s why I enjoyed watching my boys watch it. The Robertsons have a remarkable testimony; both in their individual lives and in their life together as a married couple. Faith and marriage are what we’re about here at Focus on the Family and with God’s help, we aim to strengthen marriages and help those in crisis. Maybe we’ve been able to do that for you. That’s one of the reasons we have caring Christian counselors available to talk with you and our Hope Restored marriage intensives for those marriages that are heading toward divorce. I am so proud of the work there in Branson, Missouri, where it’s located. We check in with the people who attended those intensives, usually post two years, and it’s an over 80% success rate. That is astonishing. And if you’re in that spot, if your marriage is really in trouble, don’t delay, give us a call, invest in your marriage. You’ll be glad you did.

Phil and Kay’s story is such a beautiful picture of that kind of redemption. They suffered terrible hardship. But God brought them back together! And more than 50 years later, they are going strong. And you’re gonna hear that. And you’re not gonna want to miss any of it, so let’s get on with it, John.

John: We shall do so, Jim, as you said, this was recorded in West Munroe, Louisiana and Phil and Kay Robertson, we should note, are the parents ofAl, Jase, Willie and Jep Robertson. And Phil, of course, started Duck Commander, which eventually led to the family starring in the popular TV show,Duck Dynasty. We’re going to pick up with the conversation talking about Phil’s childhood.


Jim: Let’s go back there because I think a lot of people don’t know your background. So why don’t we talk a little more about that because you’re describing, you know, real rural living. You didn’t have water. You didn’t - I mean, what was it like?

Kay Robertson: He was nine years old before he got that. That’s true.

Phil: Oh, yeah. I was, like, nine or...

Jim: Your first bath?

Phil: Oh, yeah - well, in a bathtub.


Kay: Well, now he’d gotten a No. 2 washtub.

John: A distinction there - first bathtub.

Jim: Yeah, thanks for that correction.

Phil: You would get the water out of the well. And you’d pour it over into a No. 3 washtub...

Kay: Oh, I said number two. I didn’t know.

Phil: Yup. Two was a little small - No. 3 - and I was like five boys and two girls. So I would be like No. 3 or 4, but they would warm it up a little bit.

Jim: (Laughter) Oh, man.

Phil: They’d get out of it and I’d get in it, you know, roll around in there a little bit. But you put it out in the sun in November. Let it warm up just a little, you know?

Jim: Man...

Phil: But we just didn’t think about - you know, one fireplace in the end of a log house was the only source of heat so...

Jim: And you were hunting, fishing back then, right? Is that just how you were raised?

Phil: Yup. That’s how we were raised.

Jim: So you lived off the land.

Phil: Yeah. We had a little - we raised our own corn and potatoes and Ma would can, you know, pickles and all these tomatoes and this that and the other, you know? But we’d gather up nuts - hickory nuts out of the woods, pecans - bring them in and put them in sacks, put them on the bed. And you’d break those in there next to the fireplace.

Kay: Y’all were like squirrels.

Jim: (Laughter) Now, Miss Kay, you weren’t coming from that kind of background, right?

Kay: No, I was rich actually.

Jim: (Laughter).

Kay: And that was not in that sense - well, I came from in town of 200 or less. And we just had the biggest store. We had a big store there. It was a general store, old-timey.

Jim: Right.

Kay: It was in our family 75 years?

Jim: So you had a bathtub?

Kay: Oh, I had a bathtub.

Jim: (Laughter).

Phil: One of the reasons I picked her - I said, they own a store. They’re loaded.

Jim: (Laughter).

Phil: She had her own little Bel Air Chevrolet, you know? I said, yeah. So she would come pick me up on a date. And she’d have me some bottle of Coke. You know, sometimes she’d have a little T-bone steak or some Wilson wienies in a little wrap. I said - and I’d get in the rig with her. And I’m thinking she’s bringing me little weenies - Wilson weenies and steak uncooked, Cokes ...

Kay: And she’s got that pick old hook thing...

Phil: I thought, boy, this dating’s pretty good.

Jim: You’re speaking his language. He’s excited talking about it right now.

Kay: Well, I got in real trouble because what I did was I just kept bringing all these things from our store down there. And they said - Mama said, look, I mean, we actually have to pay for this. You know, we get a wholesale price. But you’re giving away - and I said, well, they’re poor. And they are so enjoying - but the biggest problem I had, I’d bring in a case of Cokes, and they drank them all. Si would sit there and drink about eight in a row. And I said...

Jim: (Laughter) Before iced tea, right?

Kay: I said, Phil, why - why is everybody doing this? And he said, because they’re worried there won’t be any more. So they want to get their share early.

Jim: So when’d you start getting serious about maybe we should get married? How old were you at this point?

Kay: Well, look - look. I’m going to tell you something. We started when we - it was 14 - when I was 14 years old, and he was a year older than me. And actually, we were kind of fixed up. Like, a girl told me that he wanted me to walk him off the field that nightand that we saw each other. We looked. But back then, people weren’t forward like they are now.

Jim: Right.

Kay: You know, you just waited for something to happen, you know. Well, they told Phil the same thing, that, you know, I wanted him to walk - you know...

John: But you were a cheerleader, right? And...

Kay: I was a cheerleader.

Jim: And the quarterback.

Kay: He was the quarterback.

Phil: Being walked off the football field meant we got something going here.


Kay: Yeah. That was our first move to - to where we could - but you see how different it is from today. You would see each other, and you’d think, I thought he was cute. He thought I was cute. But nobody made a move. And so you waited. But actually, this girl thought we’d be good for each other, and she just kind of fixed us up like that. And, uh, we went together. But then what happened in duck season was he told me - he said, uh, we’re going to have to break up because, really, this dating and all, it’s kind of - I’m getting serious about hunting. So we’re going to have to...


Kay: You know, and I just was so stunned. I thought, what? So what brought us back together was at the end of that year - the May, I think it was, at the end of school - my dad passed away. He was only 49 years old and had a heart attack.

Jim: How old were you at that time?

Kay: I was four - I was still 14.

Jim: 14.

Kay: And so what happened was Phil came to the funeral along with - along with all my classmates and everything.

Jim: Sure.

Kay: But I think it’s just when I saw him again, he saw me again - of course it was a sad time but that was it. When we went back together after then, that was forever.

Jim: And it wasn’t smooth - if I read your book correctly - I mean, there was a lot of rough spots and I really want to dig into that, Phil, because I think one of the things that people love about you is how open you are because...

Kay: You know what Phil says every time? I tell that testimony every time I speak.

Phil: She always throws me under the bus.


Kay: And who gets you out?

Phil: She said, but the Lord got him out from under it.


Jim: So you doing the work of the Lord, here.

Kay: He threw hisself under that bus.

Jim: Well, let’s talk about it because you didn’t - you know, you’re young. You come together. You...

Kay: Well, we had a baby.

Jim: Al came along - right? Your first son.

Kay: Al came along, we had a baby. Phil wasn’t ready and he didn’t like the word responsibility. I don’t know why but he didn’t. I think it was a case where my grandmother prepared me for this. But...

Jim: How? What did she say to you?

Kay: Oh,we talked a lot about marriage and stuff and, of course, I had a big imagination so I had it all planned out and I was going to marry a pioneer man - which I did get that.

Jim: Yep.

Kay: But she taught me about one man and one wife for one life. She taught me that. She constantly told me I was going to have to fight for my marriage, which I said, that was ridiculous because I was going to be like those books that live happily ever after.And they had two beds at night because, I guess, they got where they couldn’t sleep together. But they were there, and they had a little night stand between them. But I remember because I slept with her, and they would hold hands between...

Jim: Oh, my goodness.

Kay: ...Before they went to sleep, they would always hold hands.

Jim: So you saw that modeled for you.

Kay: I saw all that, right.

Jim: OK, so but when you’re in your 20s now, and you’re having struggles, Phil, how are you not measuring up to Miss Kay’s...

Kay: Yeah.

Jim: ...Expectations?

Phil: The problem was - in a nutshell, is thatI didn’t know Jesus. At 28, I sit down. Some guy - we owned a bar at the time. And, uh...

Kay: Yeah...

Phil: ...He comes in. I’ve got a...

Kay: ...Who’s idea was that?

Phil: I have a pistol in my shirt.

Jim: My goodness.

Phil: And the preacher comes in. You know, I said, you some kind of preacher?Anyway, I was mean.

Kay: He was rude.

Phil: I was mean to him. So when he leaves, he tells my sister out in the car, he says, I don’t think he’s ready.


Phil: Well, she was so...

Kay: You reckon.

Jim: Power of observation.

Phil: Eventually, I did sit down with the guy. And I listened to what he had to say.Well, he then proceeded to tell me God becoming flesh, Jesus - I’m like - died on a cross to remove my sins, which were many, and was buried in a tomb. And when he got to the resurrection of the dead, he said three days after he died, Phil, for your sins, he was raised from the dead. I didn’t know that.and I thought, huh. I said, how in the world did I ever miss that?

John: And we’re talking to Phil and Kay Robertson on Focus on the Family today and, boy, we’ve just compressed a lot of the story, haven’t we? You can find Phil’s book, Happy, Happy, Happy at our website and a CD or a download of our program today at

Jim: Phil, I want to go back because you have taken us to the good spot. But a lot of people aren’t living there. People listening right now, they’re struggling in their marriages. SoIwant to hear that part of the story...

Kay: OK.

Jim: ...Where you were at, and you...

Kay: Oh.

Jim: ...And Phil are having difficulty and...

Kay: Where I got to the lowest point in my life.

Jim: How’d you come to the Lord? Yeah.

Kay: Yes. Well, that’s important because what happened is,that night, I mean, it was just so hard. Iwent in the bathroom, and I remember feeling like - I know how people feel when they get just completely hopeless because the thing that I had put my life into, which was my marriage, my children, the home, everything - but what I really didn’t understand - the reason I didn’t do a lot of bad things that he did and all that, it was my grandmother, but I was operating on her faith, or trying to. But, you know, that night is when I realized that I had to have my own faith.

Jim: Right.

Kay: But that night, I literally went in that bathroom, and I was on the floor crying. And he was drunk in the living room.And I was crying.And I really, really, for the first time in my life thought, I want to just go to sleep and not wake up. I wanted to do anything that - so he’ll see. Of course, I really don’t think I wanted to die, but I wanted to hurt him or do something where he would be shocked.

Jim: Get his attention.

Kay: Yeah, and do...

Jim: Yeah.

Kay: ...Everything. But I really did have the suicide thoughts. There’s no doubt about that.And I can’t say I didn’t, because I did.And that’s when I tell the story - and it’s a true story - that I heard these three little feet - sets of feet - and I could hear them because they had the house shoes on.I know because I bought them.And knock, knock, knock. And Alan always says that was his first sermon. And it was.

Jim: How old was he?

Kay: He was nine.

Jim: Yeah.

Kay: And he said, Mama, don’t cry. Don’t cry anymore. He said, God is going take care of us.

Jim: Wow.

Kay:you know. I did. It was my starting of repentance. And when I went to that same man that he talked to - and I went to him the next day over at the church and it was about 30 minutes or 20 minutes from where I lived. You know - he said well, do you think if you died tonight you’d go to heaven? I said yeah, I’d shoot up there like a rocket. I said let me tell you about who I’ve been living with. So I went in to how bad he was. And we went all that, and he saidno. He said it’s just going to be you and God. And he said can I tell you a story. And I said yes. And he said you may think different about this because what you’re saying here is you should’ve earned your way to heaven, right? And I said well, yeah. And he said well, do you have peace. And I said now, that’s what’s wrong. There’s something wrong there because I don’t have that peace. And I know it’s in the Bible. And I know it’s about it, so something’s missing. And that is when I came to Christ. And - but the best thing he told me - and people should know this every time - your circumstances won’t be different. When I came home, he was still drinking and calling me names.

Jim: Yeah.

Kay: But he said you’ve got Jesus Christ living in you. You will be - have him. You’ve got to anchor that’ll never leave, inside you, but your circumstances. And I think people think oh, I should be OK. There should be no problems in my life. That’s not the truth.

Jim: Kay, you moved to West Monroe and became involved with your...

Kay: When he kicked me out, yes.

Jim: ...With your church - right - when, uh, he booted you out, I guess, right?

Kay: That’s right.

Jim: Sorry to say it that way, Phil. But, um, tell us the day Phil showed up at your workplace.

Kay: Yeah, that...

Jim: What happened?

Kay: Well, I was coming back from lunch with my girlfriend that I ate with every day for lunch. And, uh, so what happened was, um, I saw that old gray truck out there sitting in the parking lot. And he had his head down on the steering wheel when I saw him. So I went out there. And when I opened the door, I looked at him. And he had tears.And he said, look.He said, I want my family back, and I won’t drink anymore. And, you know, the part of me that saw the humbleness in him said, oh, yes, yes. That’s what I want. You know, that’s what I prayed for. We prayed every day for him.

But the part of me inside that said, he can’t make it without God. I know that. So I told him - I said, Phil, you’ve got to have help. And Phil said, uh, you’re talking about God.

Jim: Well, that’s what I love about the story because people are living in that place - a desperate wife who quietly praying for her husband who’s off doing the things he shouldn’t do. And he even knows it. Phil, that’s the power of the story. And I think for people, the reality of it, the authenticity of it, that moment where you come to Christ, nobody can take that away from you. You were a different man before and then all of a sudden, you’re a new man. I mean, no atheist, nobody who would refute God can argue with what happened in your life.

Phil: You can go from an evil person to a person who demonstrates love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control. You’re like,how do you go from one group to the other? We tend to look at the word repent, repentance as a bad thing. I am thankful that God allowed us and gave us the ability to change our mind, to repent, and take a different course of action. It’s a wonderful thing that he allowed us to be able to stop and start over. You can be born again. And so the change that took place back there all those years ago - 43 years ago - the change that took place is literally stunning.

Jim: Phil, one...

Phil: It was either luck or there’s a God in heaven. One or the other.

Jim: Yeah. I’ll go with God in heaven.

Phil: Hey, I’m leaning that way.

Jim: (Laughter) But when you look at that, too, the family for you became an important part of you embracing God, right? You had kicked Kay and the kids out...

Kay: Yeah. He put us out.

Jim: ...But then you began to struggle...

Kay: He said I was ruining his life. (Laughter)

Jim: ... And you wanted...

Phil: The first time some woman when I got drunkabout the first couple of weeks...

Kay: It was longer, about two months.

Phil: ...About two months, so I pull a drunk. So I said well, that’s all of it. So I’m thinking I’m not realizing the mediating work of Jesus, not counting my sins against me if I trust him and try. So I’m drunk. I’m gone. And I said that’s all of it. But I go down in front and all the churches there looking at me.I said, OK, I tend to be, you know, little blunt, straight to the point. I went down there, they said, Mr. Robertson, can we help you? And I said -I said pulled a drunk last night...

Kay: You said I got commode-hugging drunk.

Phil: ...Yeah, I said I got commode-hugging drunk last night...

Kay: We have to describe everything we do, too.

Phil: ...Claiming I’m a Christian. And so I saw these women, they would come up and tears were coming out of their eyes. And one of them told me- I just told her I got commode-hugging drunk, so I thought they going to say this idiot. So I thought they would be like, you know, get him out of here. But the woman looks at me and she saysPhil, I love you. I’m like - so I’m looking at her. I said, I just told the woman I got commode-hugging drunk and she’s telling me she loves me. So I got outside of the church building, I told her - I said, you noticed a woman that told me she loved me a while ago? I said I just told her I got drunk and she said she loved me. I said, how does that work? And Miss Kay said, Phil, she really does.What I didn’t realize is I had never experienced Agape love. Brother sister...

Kay: Unconditional.

Jim: Unconditional love.

Phil: Never experienced it.

Jim: Yeah.

Phil: So that was part of my learning process is to understand when I first started...

Kay: He didn’t trust anybody.

Phil: ...I didn’t know about the love of God, selfless love - it didn’t occur to me until I started seeing it. Well, all those years later, now it’s been - oh, that’s 40 years ago. But you say, as you went on your path, you learned as you went and you learned how to love people that way. I didn’t know what that was. See what I’m saying?

Jim: When you think about it, even in the culture today right now, that idea of feeling Agape love, feeling the love that God has for us. I’m concerned sometimes that myself, as a Christian, I’m not doing that well enough.

Phil: The most needed indispensable thing on planet earth right now is what Jesus said, look here’s the greatest commands that there are. There are no rules except love God and love your neighbor. Well, if we just - if we just did that - just think about what kind of society and world we would have. It’s a hard thing for humans, it was hard for me to learn what love is. Very difficult.

Jim: It is. It is.

Kay: And I’ll amen that.

Jim: And, you know, unfortunately we have come to the end of our time together and it’s been so good. And I have loved the emphasis on the Lord and the change in your life- both of your lives. And as we end, there will be people listening that don’t know their relationship with Christ. They may have said, yeah, I believe but they haven’t felt it the way you described a while ago Miss Kay. And Phil, they’re the husband that’s not living right. I want to give you some time right at the end here to speak directly to that person that isn’t connecting the dots.

Phil: The great misunderstanding is - biblically speaking, is that most people - the American model, what it does is it says, go to your place of worship on Sunday morning. Go to worship services.They’ll say, go to church. Are y’all going to church?You’re like, I wonder why the Bible never mentions those terms, going to church, worship services and a structure. Jesus said,look, there’ll come a time -when he talked to this woman at the well- he said,the time has come for you to worship in spirit and truth. So Jesus’s point was -America needs to realize, and the ones who are struggling-worship is not confined to an hour or two on Sunday morning, maybe one hour that night and maybe Wednesday night. That’s the American model. You say, well, that’s three or four hours a week. And there’s 168 hours in a week. So you readRomans 12, here’s what it says. In view of God’s mercy - Jesus coming down, removing our sin and guaranteeing we can be raised from the dead, going back into Heaven, mediating for us 24/7 - in view of that, it says offer your body as a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God, which is your spiritual act of worship,of service. What we need to understand is whether we’re in the supermarket, whether we’re on our job, whether we’re in the duck blind or the deer stand or the camp, we need to be, in view of God’s mercy, worshipping God at all times - watching our mouth, what we say, what our eyes see, how we interact with the - the wife of our youth and, say, raising your children. Worship is 24/7.Wherever you are, you’re aware.

Jim: A man whose life was changed, Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty, his wonderful wife, Miss Kay, who was kind of there all along praying.

Kay: That’s right.

Jim: And hoping. And believing.


John: Phil and Kay Robertson have been our guests on Focus on the Family, opening up their home and their hearts to share some beautiful stories about the redemptive work God has done in their marriage and in their personal lives.

Jim: John, Phil and Kay’s words are such great encouragement and hope to those who may be struggling in their marriages. Their story just goes to show that nothing is impossible with God. It doesn’t mean it’s easy-- it wasn’t easy! It was a process, a day-by-day journey for them, but they stuck it out, they trusted the Lord, and followed him. And now they can look back after celebrating more than 50 years together and give God the glory. And I’ll tell you what, being with them in their home, they have fun with each other, you can see it. They love each other. And we love sharing programs like this that offer hope and that’s one of our goals here is to present these broadcasts so that it will open your heart up to what God can do to strengthen your marriage and strengthen your family. That’s why we exist.

One listener wrote to us, John, with this message. They said: “We wanted to thank you for a particular interview on your radio program last year. On the exact day that the broadcast aired, my husband of 30 years and I separated. I had stuffed my anger instead of communicating it for too long and had subsequently lost much of the love I had for him. After hearing that program, my husband ordered the CD and asked me to listen to it. When I heard your guest share about their relationship and how they worked through difficulty, something clicked. I’m happy to say my husband and I were reunited three months later. God is restoring our marriage and making it better than ever. The Lord has been so faithful and we thank him for working through Focus on the Family.”

And let me say, thank you! Because without you supporting the ministry and praying for us, we couldn’t do it. And it is a partnership and I love how this broadcast is reaching so many people and touching lives just like that listener. You know more than 6.1 million listeners tune in to the Daily Broadcast every week and many more worldwide. But again, we couldn’t have that kind of outreach without you, our listeners. We need your help to keep our programs on local stations, to impact families like yours in the name of Christ. When you give today, God will use your generosity to transform lives through the broadcast which features special guests, life-changing resources, practical biblical help for people who are struggling or just need a reminder of God’s power and His love. In fact, when you donate today, a gift of any amount, we’ll send you a copy of Phil Robertson’s book, Happy, Happy, Happy as our way of saying thank you for supporting the ministry of Focus on the Family and helping moms and dads, husbands and wives, be better and stronger in Christ.

John: And make that contribution to Focus on the Family and get your copy of Happy, Happy, Happy at or call us and we can tell you more, 800-232-6459. That’s 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.

Next time on the program, you’ll hear Kathi Lipp as she joins us to share practical ways to connect with your kids like having a $15 family fun night.


Kathi Lipp: It wasn’t just the night, but it was planning for the night, and so it was usually one child and one adult that would come up with the master plan for that night. So you’re not just connecting with the family as a whole, you’re connecting with that one child as you plan.

End of Teaser

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Phil and Kay Robertson

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Phil Robertson, an avid hunter and outdoorsman, is the founder of the highly successful Duck Commander brand of duck-hunting merchandise and the patriarch of the Robertson family who is featured on the very popular A&E reality television show Duck Dynasty. He is also a popular public speaker and the author of two books, and he is currently working on a new internet TV project with CRTV called In the Woods With Phil. Phil's wife, Kay, is a well-respected cook who has co-authored three cookbooks and opened an eatery called Miss Kay's Eats and Sweets with her eldest son, Al. She worked alongside Phil for 30 years to build the family business, and the couple has been married over 55 years. They have four grown sons, more than 15 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren. Learn more about the Robertson family by visiting