“What have we done?” I whispered to myself.
A few years ago, my husband and I purchased a foreclosed home that, at the time of purchase, was completely unlivable. We knew we were taking a big risk, but we didn’t anticipate the financial hardship, limitless projects, and personal defeats that lurked around every corner of our ‘dream home’. We did what we could to make it habitable and within a month’s time, we moved in.
Rehabbing a home is energizing and exciting, but we quickly came to realize that a strong “why” is necessary to sustain the trials and frustration that come with the process. We experienced two winters of limited heat, two summers of no air conditioning, many pests making their way inside, no functional kitchen for a year, and a basement that regularly flooded. But the Lord was faithful in the midst of every valley and would offer constant reminders to let us know He was with us in the battle.
Throughout the process, I committed to journaling about the experience and recording my feelings regarding our home. As I was writing one particular day, a thought became extremely clear to me, “Of course we were burdened with challenges!” This home had been purchased for the purpose of ministering to others. We were creating this space to invite people into our home—to love them and encourage them. Hospitality had always been a passion for me and I longed to use our home as an opportunity to personally minister to others. From that day forward, I kept my eyes front and center on why we chose this home.
Our sunroom was long and narrow, looking out over beautiful acreage. The shiplap laden walls were sprayed with the perfect shade of warm white—rich and inviting, yet crisp and fresh. The dark wooden floors allowed the stages of the day’s light to dance and reflect off of them. The perfect light fixture was hung above the center of the room, creating a welcoming ambiance for when the sun tucked itself below the horizon. I imagined that a beautiful farmhouse table would one day occupy the space and inspired by the people who would one day gather around it—the sunroom became a sacred area of our home.
For months, it was just an empty room which held miniature hockey nets for my son to play and provided space for his little toddler feet to run. But knowing my heart’s desire—my husband had spent weeks hard at work using one of his many giftings to hand-craft the 12-foot table I had dreamt of. My mind swarmed with visions of holidays and celebrations spent in this room with many friends and family gathering together. I wanted to fit as many souls around this table as space would allow, and my husband was happy to oblige.
The table was made of rough-cut wood from Northern Minnesota. My husband gently sanded the wood, leaving behind its life story; careful not to remove any character from its past. I spent hours white-washing the intricate design of the legs, carefully catching each nook and cranny, every knot, and every nick. The table was difficult to move into the room but well worth our effort. Once it was in place, I stood back and gazed adoringly at our masterpiece. This was our handiwork, and it alone told a story. Next came the benches, followed by the perfect antique chairs that finished off the look I had envisioned from the beginning.
Shortly after finishing this gorgeous table, my heart leaned into a theme for this space. In large eccentric letters, hung just below the tall vaulted ceiling, the word G-A-T-H-E-R was placed. This was our place of gathering. It was to be a sanctuary for all who entered our home. This room was special for so many reasons and quickly became a sanctuary for me. As we continued our remodeling process, I would step into this room to take a deep breath in this beautiful finished space. It provided an escape from the chaos yet surrounding us in the rest of our home.
Our hand-crafted farmhouse table became a focal point of our life. On it laid many toys, games, and work. It displayed beautiful reflections of the season or holiday, including fresh wildflowers from either our land or the farmer’s market. But even with all the creativity and elegance this room possessed, its external beauty didn’t come close to the beauty found during the times when people gathered within its walls. I vividly remember the first party we hosted confirming in my heart that our hard work was all worth it. Over the years, our sunroom and gathering table have provided the backdrop and the foundation for bridal and baby showers, birthday parties and holidays, dinners and meetings. Every piece of play dough or crumb of food left behind encased in its knots has added its own piece of history and has brought a smile to my face.
Reflecting on that room, in the home we have since left behind, I still feel such joy. The games that were played, the conversation that was had, the meals that were shared—every moment spent gathering around that table was a gift. Many hands contributed to making our fixer-upper a home. Hands that also later gathered around our table with us to break bread. A dear friend painted a watercolor piece of art of Acts 2:46, “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” It was placed in a collage just below my G-A-T-H-E-R letters to remind us to gather together both in joyful moments and in loss; in days of victory and days of defeat.
Our lives are so busy with the hustle and bustle of everyday living. We often push for the fast-paced lifestyle—eating on the go, barely looking up to make eye contact with those we so dearly love. A table is a beacon of hope. It’s a reminder to take a moment of rest and break from the busyness to sit down and invest in relationships.
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I really enjoyed you sharing your new home that had to be remodeled.. we also did the same but ours didn’t end like yours. We worked on it for many years. It was a 100 year old farmhouse. It became too much to handle. My husband was not a carpenter but has a great heart and a passion to make things right. After several years I was able to go back to work and earn a salary. After another year or so we took out a mortgage to finish the house. A carpenter just happened to come by and hired him to finish the house for us. We added an addition on to our house which provided a large family room and garage as well as a laundry room. Many anniversaries, birthdays and parties were celebrated in that home. It became a wonderful addition for family and friends. Celebrations honoring Our Lord left us filled with joy.
Love your table and your heart. There’s more than one way to reclaim a table!