Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Gift from God and My Neighbor's Trash (DIY Mod Podge and Scrapbook Paper Bookshelf)

A beautiful bookcase is not essential to a successful homeschool.

But, boy, does it help make the teacher happy!

Homeschooling involves lots of stuff.  And corralling all that stuff -- books and papers, visual aids and school supplies, is not easy.  Doing so in an attractive way can sometimes seem downright impossible!

Since we began homeschooling I have searched high and low for some kind of cabinet or bookshelf to contain our homeschooling materials.  I had to have tall shelves for binders and larger books.  And I was persnickety about the overall size as well; couldn't be too wide, couldn't be too tall, so I could fit it in my already-too-small eat-in kitchen where we do most of our homeschooling.

Stackable plastic bins have been sufficing for a couple of years now and though they've served their purpose well, I never, EVER liked them, though I have learned to embrace the homeschool mess and accept that my decorating style is not shabby chic, French provincial, or American country:  It's homeschool modern!

But God knew how I wanted a pretty place to put our homeschooling things!  And so, long after I'd given up looking for something, my husband spotted THIS in a neighbor's trash.

Yep.  In the trash.  And while I stared blankly for just a moment thinking only of all the time and labor necessary to transform this piece into something usable in our house, it was my dear husband who immediately piped up and reminded me I had always wanted a bookshelf for my homeschooling duds.

Instant epiphany!

Sometimes a little nudge from a smart man can do much to jog your inspiration. ;)

Aside from a few dents and bangs, especially on one corner, this bookshelf was actually in very good shape.  I LOVED the fact it had tall, adjustable shelves.  And though it wasn't high quality furniture, it looked nice and was plenty sturdy for what I needed it for.  All I had to do then was decide what color I wanted it to be.

I considered light blue and thought about pale yellow, but decided to go with distressed white because, well, I love white furniture.  (Check out last summer's kitchen table makeover.)  And I'm happy with my choice, though the dear husband caused me some agony by saying one day in passing, "Hmm.  Ya should 'a painted it green," only after I was already 98% done with the project.  (Sometimes his inspiration-jogging runs on a delay.)  Why I had never considered green, I don't really know.  I think I might've liked it very much, but oh well.  I also love my bookshelf as it is.

I gave it a good cleaning and then a light sanding.  Nothing major there.  I was just trying to scuff up the surface so the paint would adhere well.  I cleaned it again to remove any dust and then it was time for the painting to begin.

With brush paint I would have had a world of options when it came to color and I probably could have saved some money as well.  Some day I may invest in a sprayer, but until then I prefer using canned spray paint for these projects when at all possible.  It just makes the whole painting process much faster and easier than brush painting, not to mention the time and trouble it saves on cleanup.

When the painting was complete, I had a gorgeous white bookshelf and I loved it, but it needed....something.  Now I love that pop of color when people paint the interior of a bookshelf a contrasting hue, but here's where I got the idea to add a print to the interior instead.  You can do this with fabric or wrapping paper, even maps or old newspapers!

I decided to go check out the choices at the scrapbook paper section of Hobby Lobby, my favorite store in all the world.

Talk about sensory overload!  Oh, how I love this place...

I walked around with a stack of plaids and paisleys and toiles before finally deciding on this weathered stripe.

I loved the colors, and though perfection isn't necessary in a mostly hidden portion of a bookshelf, I also knew straight lines would be easy to match up.  (If you're a perfectionist, prints that don't match up perfectly might drive you crazy.  Keep that in mind if you decide to try this project on your own.  You might feel safer going with a stripe, plaid, or very simple print.)

This bookshelf was easy to work with because I could remove the shelving completely, but I still had to measure and cut pieces to fit the sides and to match up perfectly in the back.

A paper trimmer is one of my most valuable homeschooling supplies.  It made this part of the project a breeze.  

Now here's where I pulled out the Mod Podge.  Using a foam brush I coated the back of the scrapbook paper with a thin layer of the Mod Podge.

I had to work quickly because it begins to dry immediately and the tackier it is, the harder it is to place it.  Once a coat was applied, I quickly and carefully put it in place, smoothing it flat and pressing out air bubbles with a straight edge.  (In this case, with a Dr. Seuss book, which just happened to be the perfect size.)  I had to be careful it was exactly where I wanted it because once it's in place, moving it is hard, if not impossible!

I continued adding the paper, overlapping the pieces just slightly to help hide the edges.  I liked working with the scrapbook paper because the pieces are relatively small and I could work in sections.  It slowly began taking shape...

Once the entire inside was covered in paper, I used a wider brush to coat it with a couple more layers of Mod Podge as a protective seal.  When I was finished, this is what it looked like:

So technically, except for putting the shelves back in, I was done.  But I had never done the distressing!

This is always my favorite part.  I just took a sanding block and went to work scuffing things up here and there, especially around the edges.  Usually I distress more than I did here, but I decided I wanted this piece just lightly distressed.  No doubt it will get lots more natural distressing with time.

While I usually add a polyurethane top coat to protect my finish, I really didn't think it was necessary this time around.  I figured more dents and bangs would likely only add to its character!

So here was my finished product:

Though we haven't started school just yet, I've already put my bookshelf to use.  I'm delighted to have gone from this:

To this:

...Though, honestly, my bookshelf doesn't look nearly as amazing in my pictures as it does in my kitchen!  

This was really a fairly easy project and very inexpensive, especially considering I got my bookshelf for FREE!  I already had the Mod Podge on hand, so my only real expenses were for spray paint and scrapbook paper.  Altogether, I did this for about $20.  I LOVE my new bookshelf and I can't hardly wait to start school and use it on a regular basis.  

This wasn't my first time trash-picking, by the way.  Sometimes you can find some pretty amazing things in the garbage.  You never know the potential in something old and forgotten until you look for it.  And you never, ever know what blessings might be lying in a pile of trash!


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Thursday, August 7, 2014

It Is Well With My Soul

I know a lot of people would differ with me on this point, but, to my mind at least, most modern Christian songs can't even begin to compare to the old hymns.

Granted, I love language.  I read wordy books and enjoy flowery descriptions more than your average person, so I guess it's only natural I would be drawn to some of the old hymns with their beautiful language.

But when you read them, (because I enjoy reading some of them as much as singing them,) they say so much. I like pretty melodies and I can appreciate a catchy tune, but I value most a song written with more concern for the depth of its message than for the drive of its beat, the perfection of its instrumentals, or even the tightness of its harmony.  

Now don't get me wrong.  Those qualities can be an asset to worship.  On their own, however, they're a sorry substitute for a song conveying scriptural truth.  In the past, songs were used as a teaching tool as much or maybe even more than they were used for worship or for encouragement.  A lot of the old hymns are chock-full of doctrine and when you read over Colossians 1: 15-20 or Philippians 2: 6-11, which scholars believe were probably quotations of early church hymns, it seems we should follow in that pattern far more often than we do.

Some hymns are especially powerful.  And moving.  And timeless.  This one awes me every time I hear it.

You probably know the story of Horatio Spafford, the man who lost a son to illness, his investments to the Great Chicago fire, and his four daughters to a shipwreck in the Atlantic, all within four years' time.  At a time of horrific grief he penned the words to this song, which present a message of such hope and faith that it's hard for me to believe they came as the result of anything less than a supernatural gift of peace that passes all understanding.

You may or may not know the rest of the story about Spafford.  He would eventually lose a sixth child after the writing of this song and may have even, by some accounts at least, been rejected by his fellow-believers for this obvious "judgment of God" upon him.  (There are always plenty of "Job's comforters" around, aren't there?)  Regardless, Spafford wound up dying in Jerusalem thinking he was some type of messiah.

That's hardly the happy ending we look for in stories like this, but then again, the Bible never hid the less-flattering aspects of believers' lives, even when doing so might have seemed to give credence to the faith, so I don't think there's any sense in trying to candy-coat the lives of our favorite hymn writers.

And I really don't think it retracts from the message of this song.  In horrid circumstances Mr. Spafford found comfort in the promises of God in His Word and the assurance that we, too, can have; that no matter what we face in life, it can be well with our souls.  And with that confidence comes an incredible measure of strength and peace, even when life seems very, very dark.

It Is Well With My Soul
Horatio G. Spafford

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin — oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! —
My sin — not in part but the whole, —
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, 'tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul!

Let's be honest:  Life is hard sometimes.  Very hard.  And while we know God works things for good because the Bible says so, we're also finite creatures without the natural ability to view things from His eternal perspective.  It's a handicap that breeds discouragement.

But that's why I like this song.  It looks beyond the present circumstances to the eternal truth that assures us that even when life seems completely out of control, the most important thing can be secure and steady and unchanging.  What hope and joy there is in that promise!

It's not always easy to see it.  We forget it all too easily.  But no matter what, if my soul is right with God, really ALL IS WELL.  And what amazing comfort I find in that truth.

Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.
 2 Corinthians 9:15


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Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Ready-to-Get-Back-to-Homeschooling Phenomenon

Sometimes I see the appeal in year-round homeschooling -- keeping information fresh in kids' minds, being able to take more breaks more often, etc., -- but I simply haven't been able to talk myself into sacrificing any portion of my summer, even for breaks that would no doubt be very welcome throughout the school year.

It's just that I ADORE SUMMER BREAK.

I love warm days that are long and unscheduled and (mostly) carefree.  I love sleeping in, at least a little.  I love going barefoot and taking trips to the park on a whim.  I love having the time to tackle projects I don't dare begin when we're schooling and I love that empowered and accomplished feeling I have when they're completed.  

Listen, homeschooling is tough.  Nothing in my life feels more right or more important or more fulfilling than homeschooling my kids, but, no question, it's also one of the most difficult and exhausting things I've ever tried to do.  It requires a level of trust in God and commitment to others, (in this case, my children,) that nothing else I do demands.  And of course such an intense dedication of willpower and brainpower will take its toll after a few months.

I start longing for summer.  About mid-April, milking every ounce of inspiration I can from the post-homeschool convention boost and counting days on a calendar like a kid awaiting Christmas, I see the finish line in view and hobble my way toward it.  Almost...there.  Just a little....further.  If...I can...just.....make it...... 

Then school is finished and that next day feels SO GOOD.  I can sleep until 8:30 if I really want.  (Well, sometimes I can.)  I can gets tons of laundry done.  (Washed, if not folded.)  I can get a room painted.  Or a dishwasher fixed.  A closet cleaned out.  A redecorating project completed.  I can go grocery shopping in the middle of the day or go to the park with my kids in tow and David Copperfield under my arm.  (The book, not the magician.)  

I feel so liberated!  So free!  Structure is abandoned.  Schedules are taboo.  It's summer!  Ah, GLORIOUS SUMMER!   And I enjoy it so much I wonder if I can ever be happy returning to the structured life again. 

And that lasts until maybe mid-July.  Maybe.  

Then something begins to happen.  It starts with this mournful little feeling that the kids and I are going our separate directions too much, that I kind of miss the nice, orderly way we used to start our mornings together.

Suddenly I have a renewed interest in the books I've already purchased for the coming school year.  I might pick one up and flip through it.  Which reminds me of the book I meant to buy and never did.  Then I'm scouring Amazon.  And Rainbow Resources.  And eBay.  And Rainbow Resources again.

And what was that book I wanted to use for read aloud?  I remember and jot it down.  And I jot down others.  And I make another note.  And another.  All about homeschooling.

Then I notice my school supplies.  Do I have enough glue sticks?  Cap erasers?  I need some 1st grade tablets.  I jot another note.  Maybe things need to be reorganized a little.  I move stuff around.  I shuffle flashcards and stack math manipulatives.  And I realize I'm enjoying this.  Which surely makes me a total nerd.

And then I look at my house.  Wow, what a mess!  Has it been truly clean at all this summer?  I realize how spotty I've been about making the kids do their chores.  And how spotty I've been about doing them myself!

And I look at books again.  And the one I ordered comes in the mail and I like it.  A lot.  And I can't wait to use it.

And I decide I'm a little sick of sleeping in.  I miss that early morning, up-before-the-kids time.  I find myself wanting my schedule back.  I realize I miss my...gulp...STRUCTURE.

It doesn't happen overnight; there are a few weeks of recovery time necessary in-between, but I never cease to be amazed how the very practice that has me so expended and exhausted in late spring is the same thing that excites and motivates me in late summer.  The strength that was depleted is renewed.  The inspiration that was drained revives.  The peace and the purpose return and I find myself looking at another school year, not with the dread I might have felt in late May, but with all the excitement and enthusiasm of a new beginning and a new day set in late August.

I call it the "Ready to Get Back to Homeschooling Phenomenon."  It's a colossal change of heart.  A burst of hope.  A special gift of grace.

Without it, I couldn't do this.

But with it, I can tell you I'm ready, and EXCITED, to get back to homeschooling.  


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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Blueberry Bread Made with Coconut Oil

I LOVE blueberries and it always puts a smile on my face when summer rolls around and I can finally buy blueberries that are: A) affordable, since, around here, blueberries are INSANELY priced in the out-of-season months, and B) flavorful, like a blueberry should be instead of tasting like the plastic fruit that used to sit on the buffet table in my grandmother's kitchen.

While my preferred method of enjoying blueberries is popping them straight in my mouth, I have a tendency to go crazy when I find them on sale and then I bring home way more than I could possibly eat in a few days time.  I freeze some, of course, but I find myself wanting to make something fresh and wonderful with all those gorgeous berries.

So.....just the other day I remembered an old strawberry bread recipe I used to pull out fairly often.  Why not try it with blueberries, I thought.  And, better yet, why not try to remove some of the calories and cholesterol at the same time?

This is what I came up with, and my family was pretty impressed!  Not to mention it is so easy to fix.

  • 1 1/2 cups mashed fresh blueberries
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar 
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. organic coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup stevia
  • 2/3 cup sugar

Stir together the mashed blueberries and the 2 Tbsp. sugar in a large bowl.  (You can use a thawed 10 oz. package of sweetened frozen blueberries here if you like, but nothing beats the fresh.  And don't forget to omit the 2 Tbsp. sugar if you're using pre-sweetened berries.)  Stir the eggs and coconut oil into the berries.  In a separate bowl, mix all the dry ingredients well and add to the berry mixture about 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition of dry ingredients.  Pour into a well-greased and lightly floured 9 x 15-inch loaf pan and bake for 1 hour at 350°.  OR do what I did this time around and pour into FOUR well-greased and lightly floured mini-loaf pans and bake 25-35 minutes, or until the top is browned and toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean.  Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.  Allow to cool another 20 minutes before slicing.  Then ENJOY!


*The coconut oil adds a distinctive and delicious flavor to this bread, not to mention it's a cholesterol-free fat. I think it compliments the blueberries very well.  And while I did replace 1/3 of the original sugar in this recipe with stevia, I wouldn't try replacing much more than that.  Real sugar helps retain moisture.  Without it you may have a SWEET bread, but it'll also be a VERY DRY one!

**Oh, and don't let the ugly grayish color of the batter scare you!  It just means all that blueberry goodness will be distributed evenly through your bread.  As you can see in the picture below, it bakes into a nice brown.

So if your fridge is packed with more blueberries than you know what to do with, I'm offering you a possible solution.  Whip up some blueberry bread!

As for myself, I'm being careful to avoid my local grocery store when they're offering a fabulous deal on blueberries.  I just can't handle it.  Of course, the last time I was at the store, sweet cherries were on sale instead.

Rats!  Why do they always do this to me?  Now...what to do with all these cherries...?


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Thursday, July 17, 2014

My Bathroom Vanity Makeover

Before we moved into our house, we painted our bathroom red.

Yikes.  Big mistake.

It's not that I don't like bold color.  I do.  Really.  And red is one of my favorites!  But bold color has to be used in the right space or it can get very old very quickly.  And I think RED in the small confines of our bathroom was old to me before the paint had even dried on the walls!

But we'd done lots of painting to get moved into our house and the thought of more painting was enough to make me break out in hives, so I chose to live in denial and convinced myself I would grow to like the red.

Never.  Ever.  Happened.

Finally last summer I painted over it with a plain and sensible neutral.  I figured I could decide what colors to accent with later on.  But you know what I kept finding myself drawn to?  Accessories and wall art with black guessed it...RED!  I still love red in my bathroom, just not from floor to ceiling!

Loved my $3 Hobby Lobby clearance find...

And this 18" x 30" score from a Big Lots clearance aisle for $12.50.  I LOVE it!

There's something classy and a little bit vintage in the pairing of black and red, and earthy neutrals just add to the sophistication of the look.  I found myself loving the colors together.

But I still had this.

Bleh.  Oak cabinets like these are tolerably attractive and CHEAP, which is why builders use them so much.  But the oak finish is boring, a little outdated, and very casual and it just didn't seem suited to the classic colors I was accenting with.  I wanted something dark; something classy.

Now I suppose the obvious solution would be to replace the vanity, but with that you're talking about a whole new level of commitment and I was NOT ready for that.  I just wanted a color change and I thought an update like that could be pretty easy.

Stain would have been my preference.  I used a dark stain when I redid my kitchen table, (you can read about that project here,) and I LOVE it!  But there were a couple of problems with trying to stain my vanity.  For one, you're talking about a lot of work.  I'm not afraid of hard work when it comes to repurposing or refinishing, but it's only worth it if you can be fairly sure of success.  And that was my second problem:  My vanity is only partially real wood, and while I've read of some people having success with stain on particleboard, I've never been able to make it work myself.

Paint seemed the only way to go, but I wasn't sure of the right color.  While black would have fit with my color scheme, it's also a little less versatile if I decide to change accent colors later on.  But I wanted something dark, something close in shade to a dark mahogany or espresso stain, so I stood in the paint department of Lowe's for ages comparing colors.  I had all four kids in tow, so I'm pretty sure the Lowe's employees were as happy as I was when I finally picked my color!

The first step in remaking my cabinet was to remove the cabinet doors and hardware.

Then I just gave everything a light sanding.

Callouses, black fingernail outlines, and bandaids.  Obviously I could NEVER be a hand model.  

You're not trying to remove any finish with the sanding; just scuffing the surface enough to help the paint adhere, so there's no need for an electric sander.  Sandpaper or a sanding block will do just fine.

After that I taped off the surrounding areas with painter's tape and protected the floor with plastic.  (TIP:  When I put up a new shower curtain liner, I always hang on to the old one, just for projects like these.  Makes for a great drop cloth.)

Then it was time for the paint!

I immediately fell in love with the color.  It's called Black Raisin (4002-2C) Ultra Paint + Primer in gloss from Valspar and it was just the shade I was looking for.  Two coats covered my vanity perfectly, so I was pretty impressed with this paint.

I did much of the painting with a brush, but I recommend picking up one of these, too...

A foam mini-paint roller like this is great for painting small areas like cabinets and saves lots of time over brush painting.  You can pick one up for under $5.  And if I may offer another piece of advice:  Did you realize you could do this?

Who wants to wash brushes and rollers between coats or every time you get interrupted in your painting?  Provided you'll be returning to your project within a day or so, it's fine to simply wrap your rollers and brushes in plastic wrap and set them aside.  Believe me, I've done this scores of times and it keeps them moist and ready for use when you're ready to work again.  Just make sure they're wrapped tightly!  

But back to my vanity...

Bathrooms tend to get dirty and ours sometimes gets CROWDED, so I wanted a durable finish that was also easy to clean.

I love this polyurethane because you don't have to sand between coats and clean up is easy with soap and water.  I did the recommended three coats, allowing drying time per the instructions between each coat.

When the polyurethane was finally dry, it was time to hang the doors again!  I decided to replace the door pulls, too.  Keep in mind that sometimes just a change in hardware can make a BIG difference in the looks of your furniture or cabinets.  At $3.47 a piece, it was a cheap update.  

In the end, my vanity looked like this:

I am thrilled with my new vanity!  It has completely changed the looks of my bathroom, and I'm pretty impressed with the way the dark paint mimics the look of a stain.  That was exactly what I had hoped for in the beginning.  It's only upon close inspection you can see the "stain" is actually plain ol' paint! 

And this vanity makeover cost me less than $60!  And that's including paint, brush, roller, sandpaper, painter's tape, polyurethane, and two new door pulls.  Compare that to a new vanity, which would have cost me at least $200 and would have required a lot more work and made a lot more mess.  I got a new look for my bathroom at a STEAL of a price and the project was actually very easy.  

I am thrilled with the results and I'm thoroughly enjoying my "new" bathroom  No more ugly vanity!  


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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Random Thoughts Thursday: 7 Men from History I Would Love to Meet

Summer is my chance to work on all the projects I can't seem to get to during the homeschooling year and, YIKES, have I been busy!  Hopefully I can show off some of the fruits of my labor shortly, but today seemed perfect for what I think I'll call a Random Thoughts Thursday, a day when I share some of the random things I'm thinking about when I'm washing dishes or folding clothes or running errands or trying to go to sleep at night.

Today I'm thinking history.  You see, love history,  In fact, there was a time in my blissful youth when I even thought I might be well-suited to a job in a museum backroom behind stacks and stacks of musty old books and papers and letters doing research work as a historian.  Sounds incredibly dull, (and nerdy,) to many, I'm sure, but the idea still appeals to me sometimes.  I can easily lose myself in stories from the past, especially in the personal anecdotes and traces of correspondence that offer little glimpses into the personalities of some of the amazing characters I read about.  I get tired of such extraordinary people being reduced to the stiff, uninteresting, lifeless characters they often are in history books  These were real, living, breathing, feeling people and there are so many of them I desperately wish I could meet.

And here I've listed just a few of them.  Now the list could go on almost endlessly, so I did set some parameters for myself:  First of all, I didn't include Jesus Christ because, well, He's kind of a given.  I also excluded anybody else from the Bible because I think they may be worthy of their own Random Thoughts Thursday at some point in time.  The same is true of women from history.  And why seven men?  Well, because once you get past the first seven, I have about FIVE men who tie for #8.  It was easier just to leave off with the seven!

Oh, and you will find a bit of a Revolutionary War theme here, I'm afraid, as I do tend to obsess over all things American Revolution.  I'm afraid I can't really help that.  My list is also heavily, (though not exclusively,) American.  It's not that I'm not interested in world history, it just doesn't do for me what American history does.  Forgive me for that, my dear international readers, and feel free to enlighten me on the amazing figures from your own nation's history.

So here it is...                   Seven Men from History 
                      I Would Love to Meet

#1  George Washington

Maybe it seems a little cliche to place Mr. Washington at the top of my list, but, honestly, the more I learn about him and the more I read his writings, the more I am blown away by his courage and by the depth of his character.  His own writings and that of his contemporaries indicate he was a very devout Christian, a man of prayer, and one of unbelievably high moral standards.  Even determined anti-patriots, the kind who search high and low for some sort of evidence of scandal among our founding fathers, tend to be very disappointed where George Washington is concerned.  He was, apparently, confoundedly upright, and any convincing evidence to the contrary just doesn't exist.

And do your realize he stood over  6' 3'?   Couple that with the fact he apparently had a very commanding presence even among those who didn't like him, and I'm convinced I would be a giddy, sweaty-palmed MESS if I was ever in the same room with the man!  But, oh, how I would love to meet Mr. George Washington face to face!

 #2  William Tyndale

Not only do we have Tyndale to thank, in large part, for our English Bible, but some argue we have him to thank for English in general, given his work was so influential in the evolution of the language.  I have to admire a man who was willing to stand up to the religious establishment of his day, to challenge its authority and its traditions, not for rebellion's sake, though challenges against the norm are often perceived as so, but on the basis of justification by faith, and making the knowledge of that truth available to the common man.
His efforts cost him his life, but should make him the greatest kind of hero to those of us who own more Bibles than we know what to do with.

I would like very much to meet Master Tyndale to say thank you.  And then I'd like to give him his own cell phone and teach him how to use a Bible app.  I imagine him weeping at the easy accessibility of God's word in the English language.  And probably weeping even more at how little people appreciate it.

#3  Charles Dickens

I couldn't possible compile a list like this and not include Mr. Dickens.  He is my absolute favorite author, and after reading some of his novels, which are incredibly long and wordy and crammed with more characters than a comic book convention, I am admittedly a book snob, finding it very difficult not to turn up my nose at a lot of the drivel that passes for "writing" these days.  Like this blog for example...

For me, language is music.  And Dickens' symphonies are the finest.

With the exception of John Pollock's The Apostle, which is a biography, not a novel, no one has ever succeeded in reducing me to a weeping mess like Mr. Dickens.  (Think Sydney Carton.  I.  Cried.  Uncontrollably.)  His plots are so intricate and his characters so endearing and his writing so incredibly beautiful.  But it's more than that!  Mr. Dickens changed his world through his writing.  His stories were more than mere entertainment -- they brought to light some of the horrid evils of his day; child abuse and neglect, the plight of the poor and uneducated, the greed that permeated the industrial revolution, and even the sad hypocrisies within the Church.  Nothing disturbs or condemns so fully as the unabashed exposure of a painful truth.  And nothing evokes change like it either!  The writings of Mr. Dickens began to alter the mindset of both England and the United States, and the changes they encouraged would benefit the weakest citizens of both immeasurably.

And somehow in these dark, sad stories he brings out so much humor.  How is that even possible?  Well I would like very much to meet Mr. Dickens and ask him if I may sit quietly in a corner and simply watch him write.  Maybe, just maybe, I could learn something from the process.

#4  Dr. Joseph Warren

It infuriates me that in all my years of public schooling, never once was I told about Dr. Warren.  Not a single time.  Perhaps that's part of what spawns my interest in the man now, but it's certain he was a brave patriot who at least deserved a mention.  Most people have heard of Paul Revere, (another man I could easily have added to this list,) but few know it was Dr. Warren who gathered the necessary intelligence and then organized Mr. Revere's famous midnight ride.

Nor do people know how he, even when offered a position of command at Bunker Hill some two months later, refused it so that he might fight alongside the common soldiers.  The decision to take the humbler situation likely cost him his life.  He died at Bunker Hill at the incredibly young age of 34.

#5 Nathan Hale

People are familiar with the quote, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country," but I doubt most people realize Hale was just 21 years old when he spoke those words and when he was hanged by the British for spying.  Even the enemy was apparently frustrated with the kind of peace and bravery he displayed at his execution.  And though information about him isn't abundant, he was known as a committed Christian and was possibly even preparing for the ministry.  His fellow soldiers often called upon him for prayer and encouragement and when he volunteered for a spy mission when all other officers had refused it, a friend even questioned whether one so honest and forthright could possibly be a successful spy.  Maybe the friend's concerns were warranted, but Nathan is remembered as a great American hero nonetheless.

Something else that says a lot to me about Nathan:  Prior to his days as an officer, while working as a teacher of an all-male school, Nathan became concerned for the young ladies who weren't provided the privilege of formal education.  To offer them the same opportunities afforded their brothers, he began teaching 20 young women in the early morning hours, before classes with the boys would begin.  

The romantic side of me has to wonder if there was some special young lady involved in this arrangement.  Of course we have no way of knowing.  But he was willing to teach from 5:00 to 7:00 every morning, before his regular job began, just to make an education available to young women.  That's admirable, no matter what other motives he may have had.

# 6  Benedict Arnold

Okay, I realize I may be offending some of you by including a bad guy, but I can't help it.  I am fascinated by Mr. Arnold, as I've mentioned before in this blog.  He was an incredibly, almost insanely brave man at times; a wonderful leader, a lover of liberty.  

And yet something happened.  A lot of misfortune and unfair treatment just got the better of him over time.  I'm convinced it was pure bitterness that led him to betray his country and even his friend, (who rings in at #1 on my list,) but I'd just be intrigued to meet Benedict Arnold and talk to him and get to know him, to find out if he's really the evil villain we all imagine him to be, or if he was just a hero who let ill feelings eat at him until he did something he never dreamed he would do.

#7  Sergeant Alvin York

I love the story of Sergeant York, the humble country boy who became a hero and Congressional Medal of Honor winner, even in spite of his early intentions of filing as a conscientious objector.  His story is amazing and sweet to me in a sense, just in the way he struggled with his desire to please God and live according to the Bible and yet serve and defend his country.  I think sometimes I have to respect more the person who struggles to find direction or who gives deep consideration to a decision or an opinion, rather than the one who confidently has it all decided and spouts it as indisputable fact.

But at least part of my interest in Sergeant York stems from his roots in the mountains.  My family comes from the mountains, too, though they were Kentucky mountains, not Tennessee ones.  But mountains are mountains and I'll always have a deep respect and appreciation for the simple, unpretentious wisdom of the mountain people of yesteryear.  

And I wonder if talking to Sergeant York might be a lot like talking to my grandpa again.  I think I'd like that.


And this is where I drop the names of my honorable mentions:  Ronald Reagan.  Marquis de Lafayette.  Daniel Boone.  Paul Revere.  James Armistead Lafayette.  Neil Armstrong.  William Bradford.  Alexander Hamilton.  On and on the list could go.

But I'm done now.  So who makes your list?  What men from history would you be most interested to meet?


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