Our current culture has come to think of homemaking as boring or unimportant. The role of women in the home is largely undervalued. Bekah Merkle is on a mission to change that by helping women to own the beauty, creativity, and innovation within their role as homemakers.
In our conversation, Bekah takes us through the history of how feminism has impacted the woman’s role and how we can begin to reclaim the importance of this high calling. Whether you are a new homemaker or have been making a home for decades, may this conversation remind you of your significance in your family and in the world.
In this episode, we cover:
- How culture has been wrong about the significance of homemakers
- Differing perspectives on education for women
- What classical education offers to families
- Imagining what it looks like to embrace homemaking in our modern world
- How the internet influences our homemaking pursuits
- The underappreciated value of an excellent homemaker
- Looking at the ups and downs of feminism throughout history
- Finding your vision for creativity and joy in homemaking
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Rebekah Merkle has dabbled in a number of occupations ranging from manning her own clothing label to designing her own fabrics to becoming a full-time high-school humanities teacher. Her designs have been featured in a number of magazines, she has written the books Eve in Exile and Classical Me, Classical Thee, and she has edited a Brit Lit curriculum for Canon Press. However, her proudest accomplishment is her crew of five outrageous, hilarious, high-speed teenage children, and her favorite role is that of wife to her similarly outrageous, hilarious, and high speed husband, Ben Merkle, who serves as president of New Saint Andrews College. She hosts the podcast, What Have You, with her sister Rachel.
Eve in Exile by Rebekah Merkle
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Lisa Bass Welcome back to the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast. I have a great interview for you today. Bekah Merkle—or she’s really Rebekah Merkle, but I think she goes by Bekah—and I are going to chat about the meaning in homemaking, the beautiful pursuit that it is, and how we’ve gotten this wrong as a culture over very many years. It’s a long history of how we have resigned ourselves to this role being something that, meh, it’s just something God just wants people to do. It’s not really a valuable one. Well, we are going to destroy that notion if you had it. And maybe you didn’t totally have it. But there’s some things that you might not even realize that you think about that topic that you have some biases on. So without further ado, let’s jump into this great conversation.
Lisa Bass Hi, Rebekah. And I think you go by Bekah, correct? Yes.
Rebekah Merkle Yes. Yeah. Bekah is great.
Lisa Bass Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining me. We can start with introductions for those who don’t know you. Tell us about your books, your film, your mission, whatever else you want to share, your family.
Rebekah Merkle All right. Thanks so much for having me on. Yeah. Rebecca Merkle, and I am married to Ben Merkel. He’s the president of New St. Andrew’s College, which is a small Christian liberal arts college. We’ve got five children who are now basically all young adults. So they’re all— you know, it’s grad school, engaged, married. You know, we’re in that kind of exciting phase. I have written a few books. The one I think you probably want to talk more about is Eve in Exile. I wrote that a few years ago. Really, it’s just kind of trying to engage with the question of what are women for? We live in an age where that’s really despised, where homemaking is despised, where just the role of wife and mother is seen as really embarrassing and not something you’d want to admit to, unless that was kind of like a little side gig that you do. And then your real thing is over here somewhere else. So it’s just kind of— that book went through kind of a history of— brief, brief history of feminism. How did we get where we are? What could we do to recover just a more biblical approach to what is a woman? And that is a question that our culture is struggling with right now is what even is a woman in the first place? And what are we for? What are we good at? What were we created to do? So that’s called Eve in Exile. It more recently got turned into a documentary also called Eve in Exile. And that’s just kind of going through the book, but with a more visual side to it, obviously.
Lisa Bass Right. Yeah. Well, what inspired this episode is I was listening to an interview you did on another podcast where you were talking about how—in the Christian culture—we’ve basically adopted the same feminist idea about homemaking. So a lot of times with feminism in our day and age, staying at home, being a homemaker really has been reduced down to something that is just like cooking, cleaning, repetitive stuff, very meaningless. But as Christians, we’ve kind of adopted the same thing. We just decided that although it is really dumb and lame, it’s just something that we have to do. And so this is what we’re called to. I guess God doesn’t really think much of women, much of homemakers or moms in general. So we kind of see it the same way, just accept that we are going to do it anyway. And you have rejected that idea and— am I getting this right? Can you explain how we have this all wrong?
Rebekah Merkle Yeah. Well, yes. And I think that that is something I feel like I kind of realized back when I was in college. We had some friends who were kind of on the more ultra conservative side of things who had moved to town briefly. And so I was kind of exposed to this version of conservative Christianity that’s not how I was raised. And it was this rejection of feminism. So it’s like, okay, good job on that. But it was completely embracing all of the stereotypes, all the lies that the feminists told. It’s meaningless work that doesn’t require a brain. So why educate your daughters? And they were like, “Yeah, so that’s why we’re just not going to give our girls an education.” It was like, what? And it was like, “Because they’re going to just be a mom.” And it was so weird to me that it was like, that’s the poison of feminism is that lie. And it was like they agreed with the feminists, but they just thought for some reason, God wants us to do it that way, I guess. So, I mean, in one sense it’s like, well, points for trying to be obedient anyway, but I just think that that is so weird to adopt that feminist version of what our calling is and then just say, “Yeah, well we like it that it’s brainless and meaningless.” And so it was really odd. And I just remember feeling like that was such a strange thing to see. Like the feminists and the conservatives are apparently agreed on the substance. It’s just they react to it differently on an emotional level. So it’s like the feminists react out of it and they run and get a job, and then the ultra conservatives just embrace it. And it just felt like, no, no, no, no. If you’re going to object to feminism, object to it on the principial level and engage there.
Lisa Bass Yeah, and I don’t think I had put this on the original outline, but I know that you and your family have a history with education and classical education. I guess let’s briefly go into that, because you mentioned that at that time you realized that there were some people who were like, “We’re not even going to educate our daughters because they’re just going to be a mom in this meaningless role.”
Rebekah Merkle Yeah, exactly. And I do think that is something that is a struggle because after a century of just the feminist onslaught— right? I mean, it’s been a century of lies being told about this. I think a lot of Christians really don’t know what to do because they do think, “Well, we want to give our daughters an education because what if their husband dies and someday they need to get a job or they need to support their family?” And I’m like, “That is so weird to think like someday they may have to fall back on having a brain.”
Lisa Bass Right.
Rebekah Merkle That is so funny. So we absolutely have given our girls an education and we hope and pray that they will be wives, mothers, and homemakers and that that education is to equip them in that role. It’s not to equip them if that falls through and they have to go to a plan B somewhere. It’s believing that this role, this calling is a very high calling. And you can be high achieving in it or you can be, you know, a schlub. And so why would we want to raise our girls to do the lowest possible job at something? It’s like, no, I want them to see that this is a huge field with so much scope and so much room for women to be excellent and excellent in a place where we actually are very equipped to be excellent. I mean, obviously, women are capable of a great deal and we’ve just been taught that the home is not worth expending any talent or energy on. And so I want my girls to reject that and to just see if they can run in this field and take back what our culture has really lost.
Lisa Bass Okay. Yeah.
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Lisa Bass So a few things that that brings me to. One is how— your kids are mostly grown at this point, or at least, young, newly out of the house maybe. How did that look in the style of education? And then the follow up to that is— which I’ll just ask that after that. Yeah, you can tell me how that looked. If we’re— I have a lot of homeschooler audience because that’s what I am, and so I attract a lot of that. And so I think there is this, okay, well, how do we actually train them so that it’s not like the traditional education, but also have them be very equipped for this excellence that you’re talking about?
Rebekah Merkle Right. Well, our kids, we have a classical Christian school here in town that I went through K to 12. My dad was a founder of that school and it opened my kindergarten year. So it was really wonderful that my kids went through the same school I did. I mean, some of the same teachers were there. It was fantastic. But I mean, my mom taught me, my dad taught me, and then I was a teacher. I taught all five of my kids as they were going through high school. I was teaching lit and various things. But we did live in England for three years when the kids were little and I homeschooled while we were there because there was just not a Christian option that we were going to— we were just not going to consider the English schools. I mean, if we don’t consider the American public schools, how much more the English ones.
Lisa Bass Oh, yeah.
Rebekah Merkle So anyhow, we homeschooled for three years while we were there. That was a wonderful experience. It was fantastic. But they were elementary age at that time. And then when we came home, they went back into the school. And it’s just a thoroughgoing Christian education where the school’s mission is trying to apply Christianity and Christian worldview thinking to every single subject. It’s not a basically here’s just generic education, but we slap a Bible class on. It’s trying to teach math like a Christian, trying to teach science like a Christian, literature like a Christian. And so we want them to see every facet of creation as under the lordship of Jesus Christ and understand the implications of that and not just have a sort of superficial Christianity, basically. We want them to see Christ’s lordship as applied to every part of life. And so that’s what their education looked like. It was rigorous. It’s a tough school. They learned Latin and they’ve all had various other language things. It’s a tough school and we wanted our girls to get that same thing. We wanted them to know literature and poetry and math and science because they’re called to take dominion. And dominion means, you know, everything. So anyway, that was what our experience was. And I always kind of laughed. At some level, it still was sort of like homeschooling. It’s just I had my kids’ friends in the classes, too.
Lisa Bass Right. With you. Yeah, I know something that a lot of people around here do is Classical Conversations, which is a similar style. Just once a week you get together with other homeschoolers and do the classical style education.
Rebekah Merkle Yeah, definitely. And there’s a lot of homeschoolers now that are doing the classical method as well. Lots of classical schools are springing up. So, it’s great.
Lisa Bass Yeah.
Rebekah Merkle My son is teaching some online classes for homeschoolers. Yeah, so there’s a lot of great options.
Lisa Bass Cool. Okay. You talked about pursuing excellence in the field of being a mother and a homemaker. What are some examples of those types of pursuits? Because this is probably foreign to most of us, whether we’ve embraced this role or not. How does that even look?
Rebekah Merkle I think that that is a tricky question because I think the field is so wide that it can look different depending on where you live, who’s your husband, who are your kids, what is your situation? I think that we tend to want to— I think humans just tend to want to get the— like just show me the checklist.
Lisa Bass Mhm. Yeah.
Rebekah Merkle I’ll do it and then I’ll be good. There’s something reassuring about someone who gives you the checklist because then you can grade yourself and you know you’re all right.
Lisa Bass Right.
Rebekah Merkle But I just think this field is so huge and it’s going to take so many women rolling up their sleeves and being willing to throw themselves at it and be creative and be innovative. Because I do think that one of the things— I do have a section that talks about this in my book: I think there’s a tendency to look at our current culture. Homemaking is despised. Nobody knows how to do anything anymore for themselves. Everything is so easy, right? Like you could survive off of Uber Eats and Netflix and you could just sit around and never do anything and have it all brought to you. Life is actually kind of easy. And so I think it’s easy to sink down to that. But if women are willing to look around them and think, “Okay, how can I innovate and achieve in this era?” Because it’s easy to think, “Well, you can’t really now. So what I’m going to do is pick an era of the past where it seemed like women were doing what they should be doing. And then I’m going to adopt that. I’m going to dress like a fifties housewife.” Or “I’m going to get into just kind of like retro things because that’s when women look like women.” And then it just gets kind of pretend-y and it gets kind of silly because you’ve got some people pick sort of Jane Austen and they want to have tea parties and they want to have etiquette and they want to have whatever. And then you’ve got some women that kind of like a Little House on the Prairie thing, and some women pick a 1950s thing and it kind of becomes like a game of dress-ups, you know? And I think we need to think, “No, right now, in this moment, what does it look like to be faithful with the resources that God has given this generation and the situation he’s put me in? And then how can I just own this space?” And I think there are a lot of women who are starting to do that. They’re starting to see that and throw themselves into it. And I have no idea how it would look if we got enough women actually get some momentum here again in this field. I think we would probably be surprised. I think it wouldn’t look like 1950s and it wouldn’t look like Little House on the Prairie and it wouldn’t look like Jane Austen. It would look like something else here and now. And I think I’m just really excited to see what that would be. But I think we have to be willing to take risks, be creative, be innovative and be high achieving.
Lisa Bass Yeah. There are so many pursuits. I always say that I could never be bored as a homemaker. I was when I first started because whenever I first started, I didn’t really know what to do with open-ended time. Up until that point, I really had a schedule at all times. And so to just have this day that I had to figure out what to do with, that took a little bit of navigating. But then once I figured out how to be the boss of my time, I was able to come up with some things to learn. And there are so many things that I don’t have time to learn, but there would be a lot that I could do with it. I’d love to hear your take on though, like how the Internet affects this because there’s a different element that they didn’t have in Laura Ingalls’ time or the fifties housewife time, where they were looking at everybody else. I’m sure to an extent, obviously they had like their neighbors or whatever. But we have so many influences, it’s almost hard to know what I would come up with if it wasn’t for the outside influences.
Rebekah Merkle Yeah. To be honest, I think the Internet—like any tool—can be used for great evil or great good. And I think we ought to think like, “Okay, how can we turn a profit on this?” This is like we are the generation that God has given ten talents to, right?
Lisa Bass Yeah, we are.
Rebekah Merkle We can’t go bury it in the backyard. It’s like, “Okay, how can I turn a profit on this?” So you can either spend all day thumbing through Instagram and having an envy problem, right? With all the other people who have better lives than me or at least look like they do on Instagram. You could do that. Or you could see this unbelievable resource where at my fingertips, I could learn anything. I could figure out how to whatever. It’s all right there. It’s like the inspiration is there. We just have to use it and use it productively. And so I think, yeah, finding— there are a lot of women, I think, who feel very alone because they don’t know how to be a homemaker. Their mom wasn’t. Nobody taught them how. They look around themselves, they might feel really isolated. All their friends have careers and here they are with a little house and they don’t feel like they know anything about anything. And it does become sort of baseline. Yeah, just throw something in the crock pot and then I guess I’m done for the day. You know, that kind of thing. But honestly, the internet could be the thing that you then waste all the rest of your day on. Or it could be a place where you go find a community, find women who will teach you how to do this, because now we can bridge that distance and you can learn from other women around the world and you can find people who can be great examples. So I do think we have fewer excuses now in a lot of ways. But also, there’s this kind of embarrassment of riches, too, where it’s sort of like I don’t even know where to turn because there’s so much coming at me. But you want to learn anything, it’s right there. So I think it’s kind of like you said, right at first, when you have this open day, you’re like, “What am I going to do?” I feel like, yeah, the Internet, I’m supposed to just learn something from the Internet. It’s kind of almost too big. So it requires discipline and focus. But you start just taking that first step and then all these other things open up and you figure out a little bit more what you want to learn about and I don’t know. I think it’s the sort of thing that we can really waste our time on or use to glorify God.
Lisa Bass Yeah.
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Lisa Bass So how have you— I’m sure you talk to a lot of women who have felt stuck at home, stuck in their homemaking. Have you seen a lot of women feel liberated by pursuing excellence in homemaking? And how has that looked through different situations that you’ve seen?
Rebekah Merkle Yeah, I have, actually. And I think there’s just a lot of women, you know, like they write and tell me about how life changing it was when they decided to try to own this space. And it’s funny because it turns out God did create us to be good at this. So it’s like stepping into your groove almost. And obviously women have different gifts. Not every woman is the same. And it’s going to look different in everybody’s unique situations. But this is something that God created us to do and to be good at. And if you think of it that way, that I have been equipped for this and so I’m going to embrace it, it turns out it’s fun to do something that you’re good at. Right?
Lisa Bass Yeah.
Rebekah Merkle It turns out that, actually, it is a very fulfilling calling and it is really exciting. And I think that if women stop letting themselves be insecure about it because the culture despises it so much— like you do have to be willing to swim upstream. But it turns out, when you are willing to swim upstream, you’re stepping into the space that is your sweet spot. So it actually is wonderful.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I remember whenever— so currently my husband’s been home from his job because we have this business. And so I started this business and it’s like a whole family business. So it’s a little different now. But whenever my husband was working and I didn’t have any other income pursuits, I remember thinking just how much value— I was never one of the people who was like, “I just feel like I’m not contributing.” Maybe at very first whenever I was just pregnant. We weren’t— I don’t know. We just were newly married and I hadn’t really figured out how to help anyway. Not monetarily, but just like cook good meals or mend something to make something last longer. I hadn’t figured that out yet, but after that, I quickly saw that it actually was a very monetarily valuable job. I was contributing a ton by all the things that I was learning just from what we wouldn’t be buying or how far I could stretch my husband’s paycheck. I could take something small and turn it into everything we needed. And that was a very satisfying role too. I think we forget that. And people are like, “Well, if I stay home, we’re going to be missing out on this.” But they forget to calculate what that’s actually going to contribute.
Rebekah Merkle Yeah. And not just— I mean, I love it that God has created women to basically enflesh things, right? It’s like we translate. So we take something abstract and then we turn it into something beautiful that tastes good and smells good. Even just on the most basic biological level, we take the love of a man and a woman and turn it into a baby, right? We enflesh things. And when you take your husband’s paycheck, you’re taking this cold piece of paper and you’re turning it into a beautiful dinner that smells amazing and tastes amazing.
Lisa Bass Even if it’s cheap.
Rebekah Merkle Yes, exactly. Exactly. So it’s not just like, “Oh, look, he gave me $10 and I gave him back 12.” It’s like we make it into something that is memorable and that cements people’s loyalties. And I think that that’s the thing that our culture has so lost, is if you think about how much home is something that either cements your loves and your loyalties forever or it breaks your heart and makes you angry and it’s the place of the most pain and abandonment and betrayal and everything else. It’s a powerful position, the home. And we have sort of trained ourselves to think it’s meaningless. I think the modern culture, we think of a home as like a docking station where you go to recharge for the next day. You go home, you crash, you watch your Netflix, and then you go back to work the next day. We don’t think of the home as this force. And if all it is is a docking station and you’re like, “Yeah, women, you have to stay there.” Yeah, that would be rude.
Lisa Bass Right.
Rebekah Merkle But it is a lot more than that. And so the woman who is there who is creating these memories for these little people who are growing up, you’re teaching them about life every day. And it’s just such a powerful position to be in and we can use it for great good or great ill.
Lisa Bass I think it was on maybe the back of your book or something, there was a little bit of a evolution of feminism over the years and you talked about how wrong they had it. Not just now. Because you were just talking about how like over the years, we have this idea that they had it all right in the fifties, but then they had their issues there, too, where I think they probably also felt like it was such a stupid role, but we just had to do it type of thing. And the men were maybe overbearing. So how— I guess if you want to give a very brief history, or how do you think that we got it so wrong? And then where we are today, we’re in this very— well, as you call it, a boring dead end currently.
Rebekah Merkle Yeah. Yes, I do think the feminist sort of tidal wave that has happened over the last century, it’s really interesting when you go back and sort of look at the history of it. I think that basically if you zoom way out—and this is hugely oversimplifying, I’m sure—but the Industrial Revolution really did make a huge difference in quality of life. Right? I mean, it just really— things got easier and women’s roles sort of changed. And if you think about the Victorian sort of ideal woman, she doesn’t do anything. She’s just pretty to look at, right? That she exists only as a China doll. And that can be fun for women for a minute. Right? And then they got bored, they got sick of it, and we got first wave feminism. And I think that they were reacting to a genuine problem because God made women to work. God handed Eve to Adam because he needed a helper in this calling of subduing the earth. And that’s a big job. And he needed a helper. And so we know from the very beginning women were made to work. And if you just basically then reduce them to nothing but a decorative object, there’s a moment where that’s fun and pleasant, particularly after life was a lot harder and then it got easier and it’s like, “Ooh, ta-da! I don’t have to do any work.” And then they just got bored, and they got cooped up, and then we got first wave feminism. And if you look at the fifties, a kind of similar thing had happened when the sort of mid-century post-World War II life got so much easier in the home. It was like all the little appliances and vacuums and electric stoves and all this stuff came in to make women’s roles easier. And then the fifties ideal, once again, it was like women just became decorative again. And they didn’t turn a profit on all of that extra boost. You know, like, yes, life got easier and they didn’t raise their expectations. They just basically subsided into—
Lisa Bass Boredom.
Rebekah Merkle Being decorative again. Just being the kind of little, pretty little woman at home. And then that was fun for a minute. And then we got second wave feminism just exploded out of that. And so I think that in a way, the feminists were reacting to a genuine problem, which is that women aren’t supposed to just sit around and be pretty. That will explode. And it did explode twice. And so I think— and now third wave feminism, they don’t even know what they’re talking about or what they’re fighting for.
Lisa Bass It’s getting more and more confusing, yes.
Rebekah Merkle They don’t even know what a woman is now, which makes it very hard to fight for their rights. And so, yeah, third wave is just— I don’t know. It’s a huge muddle. But that first wave feminism, the sort of the suffragettes and everything, it came right after that moment where women were just supposed to be pretty and stand still and just be a pretty little picture. And then the fifties, same thing. So I do think that it makes sense that the feminists did what they did. But just because they were reacting to an actual problem, doesn’t mean they were reacting the correct way. And they made it a billion times worse the way they handled it. So, yeah, it’s an interesting look to see what was happening kind of broadly when each of those movements really hit. And especially in the fifties, it was Betty Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique where she just described how miserable all the women were and how they’re all just hopeless and they all just sit at home and they think, “Is this all?” And they’re all on anti-depressants. And her solution was they need to go get jobs. And then that was the sort of push into the workforce. And I don’t think it— I mean, if you look at it, women haven’t gotten happier. It’s not like the jobs fixed it. So, I mean, one of the things in my book I was looking at is just the percentage of women on antidepressants in the fifties versus now. It’s gone up, not down. And so if that was the premise is, “Look at how miserable women are at home. They need to go to the office,” they’re still miserable.
Lisa Bass Right. I guess the idea was that they would find some purpose just by having the job, which I could see the point. But there are so many pursuits in the home. You actually talk about having almost like an entrepreneurial vision because we don’t get that checklist. We all have our unique situations. So we need vision, we need creativity to find how we’re going to express that in our own homes.
Rebekah Merkle Yeah, absolutely. And I think women are really good at learning from each other. You see something that your friend is doing, you’re like, “That’s a great idea. And I can incorporate that.” And once you get a bunch of women all doing this, it is phenomenal. It is amazing how they spur each other on. I mean, I suppose you can also get the jealousies and rivalries and stuff when things go weird, but I mean, we actually learn a lot from each other. We’re inspired by each other and it’s just a really important, impressive force for— I think we could really make a huge dent in this culture if women decided to own this space. Because if you think about— I mean, the women put a dent in the culture the other direction. I think we could actually build it back up if we were determined to do it.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I totally agree.
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Lisa Bass So where do you recommend people go, women go for examples to gain a vision if this is something that they’ve just really been pretty confused on or don’t have any good examples in their own lives that they can look to? Of course there’s the Internet, but do you have any resources? Books? Obviously you have books.
Rebekah Merkle Yes. True. I don’t know, to be honest. I feel like every woman learns differently. I know, for me, I can get really inspired—practically inspired—by honestly, just studying history. I remember one of the things when I was in college, my thesis—my senior thesis—was on the relationship between theology and the treatment of women in various cultures. And I was researching Reformation Holland, and I was just like, “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever heard,” because it was— so it was like Holland during the Reformation, it was more thoroughly reformed than a lot of the other places on the continent where the Reformation was working its way out. And reading these letters from foreigners who visited Holland, it was the coolest thing because it was like they would write home and say, “You would not believe these women because their houses are clean and beautiful and their husbands seem to like them. And the women themselves are incredibly beautiful and also they’re allowed to talk and their husbands seem to respect their opinions. And you’ve never seen anything like this.” And it was just like reading about their housekeeping and all this kind of— it was just really interesting. And I was like, “Wouldn’t that be cool if there was a community of Christian women who were blowing the minds of everybody outside that?” You know, it’s like, “You wouldn’t believe these high achieving, beautiful women.” And that was just really fun reading those accounts. And for me, that helps me to sort of set a vision of like, okay, okay, I think I can see what would be good. But other women, that’s not how they learn. It’s like they need somebody right there showing them. And so I would just say, figure out for yourself, how do you learn? Some women really need somebody to kind of hold their hand a little bit more until they know what they’re doing. And if that’s you, I would say just see if there’s an older woman in the church. Look for— my sister when she graduated from college and she had time. So she was like, “I’m just going to try to get good at various homemaking pursuits. I’m going to learn how to upholster things. I’m going to learn how to knit and crochet and sew and just I’m going to figure it out.” And she found a little old lady named Gladys, I think, or something like Gladys, who knew how to tat. And she was old. And so she would just go over to her house and she would teach her how to tat. And she learned how. Find somebody who knows what they’re doing and get them to teach you. And if you’re the sort of person who can just look at Instagram and then you’re off, you know what you’re doing, then do that. But I would just try to figure out how is it that you are the most inspired and how can you learn? And look around for older women who can walk you through it, teach you to make sourdough. Or if you’re the kind of person that can just look online and find a YouTube tutorial, and then you’re off to the races.
Lisa Bass Right. Yeah. Yeah. Everybody is different. I think the key probably is setting up your vision. Why does this matter? Does this matter? And then once you’re very clear on that, pursuing it will be— you can set that out once you’re more confident in that. Okay, this actually is a gig that matters. This is not just some boring thing that I’m resigned to because this is what I have to do. Any tips for setting up that vision?
Rebekah Merkle Yeah, absolutely. I like to work backwards on anything, on any project. I want to know what is the final goal? And then I work my way back to the starting point. And that’s just kind of how I like to do it. So I know that when I wrote Eve in Exile, I did purposely try to keep it the big picture because I was like, “This is a really big vision and it’s going to take thousands of women to flesh this out. This cannot be reduced to one single little checklist that everybody is going to follow.” And so I did try to keep it from descending into the checklist thing. But to be honest, I kind of feel like there are some women who need more practical stuff. I’ve kind of felt like I think there might be a second book that I need to write because, for me, once I’ve got that big picture, that’s all I need, and then I’m good to go. But I think there are a lot of women who are like, “Wait, wait, wait, wait. I need step one, not just the final thing.”
Lisa Bass And maybe at first. Maybe that’s something that— it’s kind of like when I first started cooking, I needed recipes for everything. And then over time, you understand how to do things without that more rigid guide.
Rebekah Merkle Yeah, yeah, exactly. And so I really think it just comes down to taking the first step, really, in anything where it’s just like once you jump in and you start learning, even if it’s just the basic lingo that goes with whatever this pursuit is, then you know what to Google more or you know what to ask or. So it’s just kind of— yeah, take that first step. Take a class, sign up for class. I don’t know. My daughter just graduated from college in May, and so she saved up and went to London and did a introduction to French cooking course for three months at the Cordon Bleu in London.
Lisa Bass Oh, wow.
Rebekah Merkle She just got back this week, which is really fun. So she just cooked for us last night. It was very exciting.
Lisa Bass Ooh, that’s the real bonus.
Rebekah Merkle Yeah. Yeah, exactly. But it’s just like— she just— her take was— I mean, she grew up cooking, but she was like, “This is something I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life,” right? I mean, you get hungry every single day. You have to feed yourself every single day. Why not just do that and learn something that is going to set you up to be able to continue. And she doesn’t want to be a chef or work in a restaurant, but she’s like, “This is a life skill,” right? And so, yeah, sign up for something, take a class, find a older woman to teach you. Go to the library and check out a book. There’s just a lot of resources. And there’s so many different fields in homemaking. I mean, like you said, life is too short. There’s so many things that I wish I could get good at, and I know it’s just not going to happen before heaven.
Lisa Bass Yeah, just to name a few, I want to quilt, which I know I don’t have time in my season of life. And I want to master various types of croissants. I’ve made croissants, but there’s like all of these different styles of croissants that I’m like, “If I had time to laminate dough, that is what I would do.” That is so far down the list. I have a lot of other things that come up above that one, but just to name a few. There are just so many.
Rebekah Merkle Oh, I know. And I just— like gardening is the thing for me that is always like, okay, next year.
Lisa Bass Yeah, next year is my year.
Rebekah Merkle Next year is the one where my garden will actually be better. But I have a feeling it’s not this year again. But yeah, it’s like there’s podcasts, there’s books, there’s— you know, and I have this podcast I listen to all the time, and hope springs eternal that, this year, my garden will be good, but August comes and my garden is ehh.
Lisa Bass Yeah, August.
Rebekah Merkle But I want to get better. There’s so many things. Sewing and painting and food and decorating and upholstering, and I mean, it just goes on. And I just think that I love when you see women who are creating. It’s just wonderful. And it’s so inspiring in all different directions.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Yeah. Well, thank you so much. This has been very inspiring. I’m hoping that there are a lot of women in this who are already homemakers who maybe have thought that their role is just pointless or maybe they’re new homemakers—that’s the time when I struggled the most—and can’t quite see the value that they’re adding or how they can pursue that next step. Tell us where we can best follow along with you, resources you offer, and we’ll also be leaving all of that down in the show notes as well.
Rebekah Merkle Yeah, sure. My sister and I have a podcast. It is nowhere near this professional. It’s called What Have You. And we just record in the car while we’re drinking coffee. So that one we just talk a lot about Christian living as a wife, as a mom, practical stuff, spiritual stuff, whatever. What have you, in fact.
Lisa Bass Yeah. What have you.
Rebekah Merkle So that’s What Have You. My books are available at Canon Press. The Eve in Exile documentary is— you can watch it if you have the Canon app.
Lisa Bass I actually do.
Rebekah Merkle Okay.
Lisa Bass It’s funny because I was researching you for this. I had heard you on a podcast, and so then I had jotted this note down, like, a long time ago. And then finally this episode came about, and so I was researching to prepare for this more recently, and I was like, “Oh! Oh!” I didn’t know, like, who your sister was and your dad. And I was like “Oh!”
Rebekah Merkle Yeah. It all comes together.
Lisa Bass So funny.
Rebekah Merkle Yeah. My sister is Rachel Jankovic, so she’s got books at Canon Press as well. And yeah, most recently, I’ve started a design business now that I’m not teaching anymore. My youngest graduated from high school, and so I, too, graduated. And so, yeah, I’m selling some kitchen linens and that’s really fun because I did design back when my kids were little, and then it hit a phase where it was like, “No, no, the mothering really is much more intense now.” And it was like, there will always be things to be designed, but there will not always be children this age in my house. So I just set that aside and now doing that. So anyway, that’s RebekahMerkle.com. I’ve got some towels. I’ve been on a dish towel quest.
Lisa Bass Oh yeah. That is something I’m definitely going to check out.
Rebekah Merkle Well yeah, because it’s just the most annoying thing that dish towels, when they’re cute, they seem to not work. And then when they work, they’re just not very cute. So anyway.
Lisa Bass I was having that thought today, actually, because I was bringing one out of the bottom of the drawer as a photo prop for my latest recipe for my blog. And I was like, “Well this is never going to get dirty because nobody’s going to use it,” so perfect. It’s useless.
Rebekah Merkle I know, I know. And so my thing is I got this guy in India especially weaving this cotton for me because it’s a bird’s eye weave, which is what you use for cloth diapers, which means it’s absorbent and soft, but then it’s printed. So it’s actually cute, but you can actually use it, you see?
Lisa Bass Right, Right.
Rebekah Merkle This is my whole journey.
Lisa Bass Oh, that’s cool. I didn’t know that. I’m going to have to check it out.
Rebekah Merkle Dish towels matter, right? It’s a big part of your life.
Lisa Bass Hey, it’s just another thing, you know?
Rebekah Merkle And you always need more.
Lisa Bass Each aspect of your home that— yeah. If you feel like you’ve given it all attention, check out that linen drawer.
Rebekah Merkle I know, I know. And it’s a sorry situation most of the time.
Lisa Bass Yeah, mine is. Okay, cool. We’ll leave that all down in the show notes. Again, thank you so much for coming on.
Rebekah Merkle Thanks for having me on. It was great to meet you.
Lisa Bass All right. Well, thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast, and I will see you in the next one.