This month, we are excited to introduce you to a friend of ours in Austin, Texas. She has taken the practice of gathering around the table to her front yard. Isn’t that refreshingly unusual? Read her story and use this month’s conversation cards to take steps towards expanding who you invite to the table.
“Take every opportunity to open your life and home to others.”
Romans 12:13 (The Voice)
A few years ago, I was in a season of holy restlessness. I had a big dream—this vision—of living in a community where neighbors knew and loved each other well. Sure, I knew a handful of neighbors—the ones who were most like me, moms with kiddos all about the same ages. Sadly, interaction with the majority of my neighbors was limited to friendly waves from the car, brief chats at the grocery store, and our annual Memorial Day block party. The block party is a highlight of the year, but twelve months is a long stretch of time between neighborhood get-togethers.
I felt a tug at my heart to open our doors wide and invite neighbors, friends, and even strangers into our lives on a more regular basis. But, as a mom with four young children and an introverted husband I didn’t know how. Hospitality felt hard and couldn’t figure out how to squeeze one more thing into our crazy, busy lives.
When I read these words in the book A Meal with Jesus by Tim Chester, I knew God was speaking:
“Don’t start with a big program. Start personally and start in your home. I dare you. I dare you in the name of Jesus Christ. Begin by opening your home for community. . . All you have to do is open your home and begin.”
~ Francis Schaeffer, theologian and founder of L’Abri Community
Seriously? I’m from Texas where a double dog dare is hard to resist. But a dare in the name of Jesus? Is that even allowed? But, God knew my heart. I longed for more than an annual block party. I wanted real and meaningful relationships with my neighbors. I wanted to know their stories, hear their sorrows and troubles, and celebrate their joys.
So, I took the dare and prayed, “Here I am, Lord.”
God answered in the most unexpected way. In October 2013, prompted by a last-minute party I was hosting, I ordered an unfinished picnic table from Lowe’s. I didn’t think much of the table when I ordered it online. It was just an ordinary picnic table.
Until I saw it. And, I knew.
The simple wooden picnic table was destined for our front yard. After the party, I painted the table my favorite color, bright turquoise (Sherwin-Williams Nifty Turquoise, if you’re wondering), and placed it under a magnolia tree, close to the edge of our street.
That’s when life changed. The very day I put the table out front, someone who needed to get out of the house—a neighbor I’d never met—walked past and stopped to talk. We sat at the table and started a friendship. Next, curious people from across the street stopped by and stayed for a cup of coffee. By week three, both spontaneous and planned gatherings were happening regularly at the Turquoise Table.
Now a familiar sight, the Turquoise Table has become a meeting place—like the old village well—for neighbors, friends, and even strangers to hang out and do life together. The table spurred a front yard revival in our neighborhood, and beyond. God multiplied the hallelujahs of one turquoise table into a movement of Front Yard People—people just like you and me—all craving authentic relationships with the people right in front of them.
What about you?
If this inspires you to gather with your neighbors, here are a few questions you could incorporate into your conversation:
- What has been the highlight of your summer?
- Where do you find value or meaning in your life?
- What are your currently dreaming about?
- Is there anything that I can do to care for you?
Kristin Schell is on a mission to love her neighbors. She put a picnic table in her front yard, painted it turquoise, and began inviting neighbors, friends, and even strangers, to hang out and do life together at The Turquoise Table.
What started at one simple picnic table has turned into something unimaginable. The Turquoise Table has led to a movement of Front Yard People – people just like you and me who want to create community right where they live.
Today, there are nearly 1,000 Turquoise Tables in 32 states and 4 countries. But, it all started with one simple table.
Kristin is a writer, speaker, and most importantly Tony’s wife and Will, Anna, Ellie and Sarah’s mother.
A gatherer at heart, you can find more information about The Turquoise Table, delicious recipes and stories on her website at www.kristinschell.com