Updated: May 2
Several years ago I decided I wanted a farmhouse table. Not just a trendy reproduction farmhouse table, but an old, authentic one. So on my treasure-hunts, my eyes were eagle-focused for a table that would bring a history into my home, for me to preserve and enjoy.
In early March, a friend and I found a delightful antique store in lower Alabama. The place was filled with several, large antique tables from Eastern Europe. A smaller one caught my attention. While I really liked it, I didn’t have that instant knowing that it was “the one.” I knew that meant I needed to pray on it, so I went home with measurements in hand. By mid-week, I had a peace about it and began to envision it residing in my home. I reached out to a friend with a larger SUV, and since she was currently out of town, we made plans to go when she returned.
And then the pandemic happened.
I figured since everyone was in the same boat, the table would still be available when restrictions were lifted. Ultimately, I knew that if it was sold before I got back there that it was not meant for me. But still, I really wanted it!
Then a few weeks ago, the antique store started posting photos online of their inventory. I noticed that shortly after a photo was posted, the post was updated to indicate the item had sold. I confess I had a bit of angst...and monitored the page to make sure “my” table didn’t show up. And, then it did.
Well, at least I thought it was my table. It had the same measurements, same style of legs, same circa date, but the posted description didn’t include the additional comment about the dark pine wood top that was on the tag. Yet, I sensed I needed to call and buy it…even if it was not the same; it was close enough.
The following weekend, my friend and I took the road-trip over to plunder (they were open for business) and pick it up. When I saw it in the hold area, I was a tad bit discouraged that it was, indeed, not the one I had originally seen. (The other one was no where to be found.) Unlike the first table with a heavy, smooth pine wood top, this table top had obvious flaws and the legs were a bit more distressed. I didn’t dislike this one, it just wasn’t the one that I had wanted or expected. Still, I knew this was the table for me.
As we drove home, I realized I had gotten more than what I wanted. This table had a story to tell…a story I would never know, but could imagine. The table top’s imperfections brought with it evidence that this most likely belonged to an actual working farm family, who used available resources to craft the table. I envisioned men cutting down pines in the European countryside and the physical labor it took to mill the wood. I visualized a family sitting around the table for meals. By the time we got to my house, I was about to bust with excitement. I could not wait to put the table in my kitchen!
Once again, the Lord had shut the door for something I thought I wanted, only for me to realize what He had given me was far better than I could imagine!
But the Lord wasn’t done with His surprise...as we were placing the pine table top, I caught a glimpse of handwriting. Further inspection revealed a message in an unfamiliar language. I snapped a photo and knew that sleuthing was in my future.
I have spent hours researching cursive writing of late 1800s European languages. Written in fading pencil lead, the message appears to have been quickly scrawled and is hard to decipher. I posted the photo on social media and several friends of friends have ruled out what language it isn’t, and offered suggestions of what it may be. The consensus is that it is an old dialect, possibly Romanian or Hungarian.
As of today, the script is still a compelling mystery and I will keep sleuthing to discover the secret message. But then again, perhaps it is not meant for me to translate the message. Perhaps it was an inscription of love intended only for the eyes for whom the table was made.
What I do know is that each time I sit at this table, I sense I am a part of someone’s history. I sense a connection to an unknown family, who lived in an unknown region in a known period of time. These pine wood planks contain more than a century’s worth of mealtime conversations. I pondered if this table could talk (in English!), what it would tell me…
Suddenly, a warm feeling radiates within me. I do know what the table is telling me…
It tells me my waiting was worth the wait.
But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
~ Romans 8:25
It tells me that no matter what I think I want, what the Lord has for me is always better than I can think or imagine.
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.
~ Ephesians 3:20
And it tells me the Lord finds great pleasure in delighting His children.
Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.
~ Psalm 37:4
Update: May 2022. Thanks to a friend of a friend, a year after I originally posted this blog, the message was translated and the mystery was solved! The table belonged to a widow named Behek István, who lived near the small village of Kis Tompapuszta, in southeast Hungary near the Romanian border...in the 1890s!