416 | Two (More) Books That Have Changed My Motherhood Life (Jessica Smartt)

416 | Two (More) Books That Have Changed My Motherhood Life (Jessica Smartt)

Show Notes:

In this episode Jessica shares two recent reads that have profoundly impacted her work around the home. To put it simply, she is excited to clean bathrooms! If that isn't worth noting, what is?!

About Jessica

Jessica is a wife, homeschool mom of three, author, and blogger. She lives in sunny North Carolina on a big family farm with chickens, goats, cousins, and lots of mud.


Eve in Exile

Simplified Organization

HSS 392 | Overcoming Overwhelm (Jessica Smartt)


Jessica Smartt | Instagram | Facebook | Website

Homeschooling.mom | Instagram | Website

Thank you to our sponsors!

Medi-Share: an affordable Christian alternative to traditional health insurance

Tuttle Twins: children’s books to help you teach your kids how the world really works

Have you joined us at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions? We hope to see you there!

For more encouragement on your homeschooling journey, visit the Homeschooling.mom site, and tune in to our sister podcast The Charlotte Mason Show.

View full show notes on the blog.

Show Transcript:

Jessica Smartt Hey, everybody! Welcome to The Homeschool Solutions Show. My name is Jessica Smartt and I'm one of the many hosts here on the podcast. I'm also the author of Memory Making Mom and Let Them Be Kids, and the creator and founder of Homeschool Bootcamp. Each week we bring in encouraging conversation from this busy and blessed journey of educating our children at home. While the title is Homeschool Solutions, of course, we don't pretend to have the answer to every question. It's our hope that this podcast will point you to Jesus Christ, that you'll seek his counsel as you train your kids in the way they should go.

Here's a riddle for you parents: Homeschoolers love them. Enemies of freedom hate them. What are they? They're the Tuttle Twins books. With millions of copies sold, the Tuttle Twins helps you teach your kids about entrepreneurship, personal responsibility, the golden rule, and more. Get a discounted set of books with free workshops today at TuttleTwins.com/homeschool. That's TuttleTwins.com/homeschool. And now on to today's show.

Hi, everybody. This is Jessica Smart. I'm glad to be with you here today at the Homeschool Solutions podcast. Make sure you grab a copy of my books, Let Them Be Kids and Memory Making Mom. I'm excited to chat with you today about two books that have changed my life. Two more books that have changed my life, because there is another episode about two books that really met me in a season of mental overwhelm last spring, and I will link that in the show notes. That was trending in the lines of life organization. And I'm still going on nine months of using a lot of the programs and systems that I implemented. So that was a big answer to prayer. And in the same way, I am glad to share with you today these two books that I feel like the Lord has brought into my life, in a season that I really needed to hear them. And a lot of it is just being reminded of things that you deep down did know and believe. So maybe this won't seem like anything new or shocking to you, but I guess it just struck a chord at a time when I deeply needed to be told these things and reminded them. And as an author, that's probably one of the best compliments I would look for personally, anyway, is that my works were making someone remember, in the core of their being, what they really wanted to do. Anyway, so there's my little intro. You're dying to know what the books are, so I'll go ahead and tell you.

The first one I got during a book exchange at our homeschool co-op. At Christmas time, everybody brings a book that is new or used in your home--probably used, but kind of looks alright--that you've enjoyed. So the book that I was handed, I was a little bit disappointed when I got it because I have seen it floating around for a number of years and just chosen to not pick it up. And so, I remember thinking, "Well, that was kind of annoying." But I got it anyway. And then on the way out the door, one of the women in my co-op, a new mom who I just adore-- And she is a new homeschooling mom this year; she was an OB as of August, or October...like a couple months ago, with three kids, and just slowly realized that she wanted to stay home with her kids. And so, she said kind of just off the cuff, "That is the book that made me decide to stay home with my kids. It's a really good book." And I kind of remember thinking, "Well, that was pretty powerful. So I am very interested to hear what you have to say." So the book that I got is called Eve in Exile, and it's by Rebekah Merkel. And as an author, I'm just going to say-- I mean, I'm going to give you a gushing review of the book. I think it's brilliant, but I don't really like the title and I don't really like the cover. So there's my criticism. I think that's why I put it off for so long. I do think it's a little bit misstated, or there was a missed opportunity. But anyway, I started reading because I was curious and I want to just go through-- I'm going to briefly, first, tell you what I found in it, and then I'm going to tell you how it has affected me because I am a different person and my house looks completely different, just even two weeks after reading it. And my husband will come home and kind of notice little things; I think he has really been blessed by it.

So, I guess it's about feminism, which, I'm not a big history person, and I'm not one of those people that's like, "Tell me about how something started and why things are the way they are?" I read a lot of those books, but that's not my happy place for reading. However, she does a fantastic job of capturing just the progress of things in a way that-- It's like you're hanging on the edge of your seat and it really makes sense, and she's just a clever writer. So she's seeking to address the idea that basically, our culture has decided that the idea of being a stay-at-home mom is in some way sort of a sell-out, and that is kind of frowned upon. So she's taking that concept and addressing it directly. And one thing that comes up early on in the book is the explanation of how abortion is linked to all of that, which, you know, women were disgruntled with their lot, and some of that is right. You know, suffrage, I think, is a good thing. Some of that, maybe not so right or holy. But, one thing that abortion sought to remedy was an attempt to equalize men and women so that men, like women, could have sex, but not experience the consequences of that and still go forward and live their lives, which is probably not news to any of us, but just a good thing to keep in mind about that's how that started. So she talks about how people kind of idolize the 60s as like, "Oh, the..."--and the 50s, I guess--the Leave It to Beaver and I Love Lucy of that idyllic housewife. But the truth is that there was a lot under the scenes that women were really disgruntled, and no wonder that people, and women, were unhappy with their lot in life because it was a little bit demeaning. You were just kind of stuck in the kitchen, and maybe there was a lot of missed opportunities to be all of what you could be. And so women were feeling, obviously, a little bit stuck. And then there was the counterrevolution of feminism.

So women were very unhappy even in the 50s, when it looked so great taking all of these medicines. And she kind of says, "Okay, you know, obviously women were really unhappy, something was not right. If the cure is to shake these binds of motherhood off of you and housewifery and go have your careers, then that would fix the problem, right? And that would make women stop taking medicine all the time and being depressed and being discouraged." And so, of course, we know that women today statistically are not any happier. And so it really has not solved the issue. And she's kind of looking back and saying and acknowledging, "Yes, there was an issue and there was something that was wrong, but what we've done has not fixed it either, because women aren't really happy right now either." So she says, "Are women statistically more employed now than they were? Absolutely. Are women less tied to their biological role? Absolutely. Has it brought us the happiness we were promised? Documentably and resoundingly no. Women are even sadder, if we go by the basis of prescription medicine pills. They are even sadder now than they were then. So they've chased the rainbow and the pot of happy has not turned up." Okay, so then she kind of takes back a little bit and goes to like, "What were we made for? And how have women lived out their roles across history?" And she talks for a second about our grandparents' generation and the women in World War I and World War II, that age, and kind of saying that if you-- Your job was desperately important--your job to clothe people and garden and feed people--because if you didn't get clothes, if your garden didn't grow, people actually died. And so it was like a whole thing and it was just a lot of work. And obviously we have a lot of privilege now to where we don't have to do all of that work in order to live. But she sort of is saying, "We've taken that privilege, and instead of using it for the kingdom and using it for good in the way that it should look for women, we've used it for boredom." And, she doesn't talk about scrolling your phone, but obviously those are the kinds of things that come to your head when you contrast your life with women before you, and these women who worked so hard from sunup to sundown. We are in a position of privilege, and instead of using that for the kingdom, sometimes we use it, just for our own pleasure and to enjoy being bored. And of course, that's not going to make anyone happy. So then-- And there was a chapter called "Excusing Boredom."

So then she kind of says, "Okay, what were we designed for?" You know, funny story about trying to open a can of tuna with, I don't know, like a hammer or something. and obviously, the hammer is not made to do that. So, what were we designed for? And she lays out a couple things: subdue, fill, help, and glorify. And I found that really inspiring to think about. And I do feel like I'm someone that, "You know, I'm doing an okay job being a Christian mom, right?" But when she was talking, I was like, "Wow, I've missed some of this! And there's things that I'm not embracing to the full extent." It was really refreshing to read about. So subdue: She makes the point that you should be tired. We should be working hard. And we were made to run; we weren't made to be cooped up. And that's inspiring and freeing for me. And then, fill: You know, obviously this is coming from Genesis. We were created to work and have babies. We were created to do both. And there's a really good quote that I'm going to read you: "If you try to make women as a group do nothing difficult except have babies, they'll be wretchedly unhappy. If you try to make women as a group work like dogs, but deny their role as mothers, they'll be wretchedly unhappy. The truth is, women were created for both." And again, I found myself really excited thinking, "Yeah, I'm somebody that embraces the whole motherhood part, but what's the other part?" And I was really curious to see how she would kind of flesh out what does that look like? Of course, I know about Rebekah Merkel that she-- I already knew, she works at a school. She's a teacher. And she's obviously also written books. And I know that she has designed a women's clothing line because that's what the back of the book says. So those are things to me that are like, she's not just sitting at home. And so it's kind of curious how she was going to, I guess, justify that? Although the end word ended up not being "justify" at all, it really is, "This is a beautiful way of how I am doing this as a mom." Which made me both encouraged and challenged in what I do.

Is there anything worse than spending a lot of money on something you're unhappy with and feeling like you're stuck with it? Or spending hundreds of dollars every month on health insurance only to find out that it doesn't cover what you thought it did? Well, I do have good news for you. You've probably heard me talking about the sponsor for our podcast, Medi-Share. Members of Medi-Share save up to 50% or more per month on their health care costs. They say the typical family saves up to $500 per month. And here's the best part, you can become a member at any time, so that means it isn't too late to switch to a more affordable health care option that will save you money and help you sleep better at night. If this is the first time you are hearing about Medi-Share, it's the best alternative to health insurance. It allows Christians to share one another's medical bills, offers access to over 900,000 health care providers and has a proven almost 30 year track record. Plus, in addition to saving hundreds per month, telehealth and telebehavioral counseling are included with membership. It literally takes 2 minutes to see how much you can save. To investigate this for you and your family, visit The Great Homeschool Conventions website at GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/Medishare.

Okay, but I'm jumping ahead. So help: She talks about being a helper, and just that we've misunderstood that help--"we" as a culture--means that we're inferior to the person that we're helping. But that's not at all what the model is. And then glorify: Which was a really intriguing chapter. She gets that from Corinthians, and she talks about how we are the glory of man, and the way that she unpacks what submission is, was, I thought, really eye-opening. Definitely recommend that. So then she talks about what it looks like to live out our design in the last half of the book, because I'm-- Well, it's not even half, the last third-- Because I'm such a practical person, this was my absolute favorite. And she goes through, several different chapters that are more practical. What does it really look like? And then she says, "Subduing made real... Filling made real... Helping made real... Glorifying made real..." And then she kind of talks through what does this look like in your actual life? And she says in the intro to this section, "We're a generation that needs to recover a sense of the importance of the home, and the importance of wives and moms who are invested in their people." I liked that phrasing. So she makes a point that we do absolutely work, but it's not at the expense of our home, it's overflowing out of our home. And I've experienced both the negative and the positive of that in my life. I feel like a lot of what I do as writing is an overflow of what I'm learning and practicing in the home, and it makes me want to turn back into the home and do that better.

Now, of course, there's moments that it takes you away from your home, and you do it wrong and you're on your phone too much, and I've tried to set up a lot of parameters for that. But I think that's an example of why it's been so life-giving to me, is it's not really pulling me away from my kids, it is pointing me and holding me accountable. And it's a benefit to them. And that's kind of what she fleshes out, is what we do should be a direct benefit to our families. And of course, by the flip side, I've been involved in taking on roles or jobs that are just a distraction and a burden from what I'm trying to do, and not blessing my family. So that's totally nuanced for the circumstances that you're in, and it's not at all simplistic, but I can definitely-- That made sense to me. I was like, "Okay, so that's why these things that I've been doing in my life were really life-giving to our family, and that's why some of them weren't." So she talks about how you should use your imagination and innovation in your home, and what that could look like in a million different ways. So "subduing made real" is that we are running-- Back to the earlier point about we're not made to be cooped up 60s/50s housewives. We're not meant to do that and just be bored. But we are made to be running and pointed to our home and our people. And I liked the word "pointed". I think that gave me a lot of clarity about what I'm trying to do. And then, she has this quote, "God wants women to tend the home. Tending the home must therefore be a hugely meaningful job, and the way we respond to this job shows whether we trust God or whether we doubt Him."

And then this beautiful section on that what we were actually supposed to do is to make theology real. And this made me think of Memory Making Mom. She talks about how we make theology real as women, as moms, we make theology "taste". She used that in a different sense of that verb. So, for example, at Christmas obviously there's a lot of theology in Christmas. And as women and moms, we are taking that difficult theological truth--the incarnation--and attempt to show that truth through our celebrations. Men can talk about incarnation, church fathers can write important treaties about it, pastors can preach about it, theologians can parse and define it, but we women are the ones who make it taste like something. We make it smell good. How crazy is that? "And for my next trick, I will take Athanasius de Incarnation and I will say it with cookies and wrapping paper and cinnamon and marshmallows and colored lights and tablecloths and shopping trips. And I will do it in such a way that my four-year-old will really get it, and it will send roots down into his soul, where it will anchor his loves and his loyalties, and shape his allegiances well into his 90s." So I just-- Mic drop there. I loved-- It was very energizing to me, and affirming to what I'm trying to do. And in a weird way, it made me go clean all of our bathrooms. And I think that's probably partially due to this second book, which-- Hang on a second and I'm gonna go grab it--

Okay, Mystie Winckler-- I don't know the exact relationship; I'm sure that you guys know it. But I think that she goes to church with Rebekah. Yes, I think she does. And I think that Rebekah's dad is the pastor. That's what I've been putting together. But my point is, this is a direct-- She's been influenced by her. And so she kind of takes these ideas-- And the book is "Simplified Organization:"--it's Mystie's new book--"Learn to love what must be done." And she takes these ideas and makes them...it is theological, but also more practical. And what it looks like in your home to live out the gospel in your house-making...your home-making. So she talks a lot about routines, and just the idea of embracing what your job actually is, even if you don't want to do it because it will bless your family, and also doing it with a smile. And so this book-- I'm not going to dive in as much and quote all of it just because I don't think it's quite as conducive to that. But there were so many parts here that just were completely inspiring in the actual jobs that we do. So it gave meaning to scrubbing toilets. She says, "Scrubbing the bathroom is one of the most loving things you can do for someone." And every single day I've woken up and thought, "I need to go clean my boys' bathroom." Now they are old enough to be cleaning it on their own, and they do. But it needs like a good deep clean, and then they can maintenance it. It just has made me want to organize for the glory of God, for the love of my people. And I've never, ever had that. I've always thought that I've been like an okay homemaker. I mean, if you saw my house, it's not terrible. I'm not like, super, super, super neat, but it's not like a bomb went off. But it's made me just want to do my absolute best at this job. And even some of her suggestions aren't the ways that I have implemented it, but it has been such a powerful motivation and given me so many ideas about what it can look like to be a mom that just does her job with excellence in the home, because I do not think I was doing it with excellence.

So absolutely, five stars! Recommend both of these books. And I would read them in that order. Eve in Exile and then Simplified Organization. Of course this is a homeschool podcast, and there's a lot of implications. I mean, definitely, our homeschool room is cleaner than it ever has been before. So that's fun. But I think just bigger picture-- I know we all have our different motivations, but for me a huge chunk of homeschooling is that I want to embody a loving life and relationship to my kids. And I want-- There's a real winsomeness to it that I want them to want to come home, and to love being here, and to really understand what the gospel is like in every way. And that comes through pancakes and fresh fruit and back rubs and all of those things. Homeschooling is just a part of what I'm trying to capture. And so, one of the byproducts has been that I have-- I just feel like I am being more excellent.

And one of these ladies, I think-- Oh, gosh, I'm now getting them confused in my head. But I think it was Mystie Winckler in Simplified Organization, talks about how-- Yes, it is in the beginning. How if you really dive in and do an excellent job at your first job of being a wife and a mom, the weird thing is, it makes all of the other things that you're doing better, even if you're not putting as much time in it. It's like that whole thing where if you're exercising, you actually start eating better too. And just excellence breeds excellence. And also, I think just a right orienting of our loves, God blesses that in our home. And so it has-- I've seen how it has maximized my efforts in other things. And as I've put this first, I've just seen so many more blessings in other areas, too numerous to even count. But I think it's just partially this weird God blessing, and then partially that I have become a little bit more focused and disciplined, which we all need. Okay, so if you've read these, I would love your take. The best way you can reach me is at Instagram--I'm @Jessica.Smartt--and just drop me a note. I read everything that I get. And let me know what you thought, I mean, some of this stuff is controversial. So I'd love to know what you think about that. I definitely wouldn't say that I agree with every way that every word is said, but I would just love to know what you thought and if this was as encouraging to you. Blessings to you all. Reach out and tell me "hi". And of course, don't forget to grab a copy of Let Them Be Kids and Memory Making Mom. Bye, bye y'all.

Guys, thanks so much for joining us this week on The Homeschool Solutions Show. You can find show notes and links to all the resources mentioned at Homeschooling.mom. Don't forget to check out my friends at Medi-Share because you deserve healthcare you can trust. To learn more about Medicare and why over 400,000 Christians have made the switch go to GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/MediShare. That's GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/MediShare. If you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast and leave us a review, and that'll help other homeschooling parents find our community. And finally, don't forget to tag us on Instagram @HomeschoolingDotMom. That's @HomeschoolingDotMom to let us know what you thought of today's episode.

Previous Post415 | He Said, She Said: A Homeschool Marriage (Jennifer and Damien Cabrera) | REPLAY
Next Post417 | Is Homeschooling a Duty, a Job, or a Mission? (Sean Allen)