“We make our friends; we make our enemies: but God makes our next door neighbor.”

~ G. K. Chesterton

The Promise

Nearly a decade ago, I sat next to my husband in the conference room of a title company and signed a gazillion papers to purchase our home. The original homeowner sat across from us. Near the end of our document-signing marathon, she made a plea.

“We have a tradition in the neighborhood – an annual Memorial Day party,” she began sharing stories about the Party in the Cove named for the cul-de-sac where our new-to-us home sat. “Promise me you’ll keep the cove parties going for the neighborhood.”

“Of course,” I promised without much thought and kept signing papers. I did not know anyone on our new street.

God heard my half-promise and saw the underlining fear of not knowing a single neighbor. He planted a seed deep in the soil of my soul.

Luckily, there were plenty of original homeowners still living on our street to help us carry the Party in the Cove tradition forward. The block party, now in its fourth decade, is a highlight of the year. But, twelve months is a long stretch of time between neighborhood get-togethers.

Over the years, the seed God planted grew into a dream, a vision, of living in a community where neighbors knew and loved each other well. I felt a supernatural tug at my heart to open our doors wide and invite neighbors into our lives on a more regular basis. But, I didn’t know how.

The Dare

A couple years ago, I was in a season of holy restlessness. Actually, I was wrestling with God. He was revealing his Word to me in new ways and a calling was being born, but I was frustrated by his mysterious ways. I like things — like holy callings — to be clear.

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

At first I hesitated. I wondered if a dare in the name of Jesus might be sacrilegious. 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. By his grace, I remembered to pray. In a trembling moment of surrender I asked God for help:

 “Here I am God, what do you want me to do? Lord, go before, behind, and beside me into the neighborhood.”

The Turquoise Table 

God answers prayers in winsome ways. 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.

Front-Yard-People-Picnic-Table-1024x684

The simple wooden picnic table was destined for our front yard. After the party, I painted the table bright turquoise (Sherwin-Williams Nifty Turquoise, if you’re wondering) and placed it under a magnolia tree, close to the edge of our lively 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.

 Laughing at TT

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.

God had bigger plans. When neighbors from a few blocks over learned about the turquoise table, they wanted one, too. I remember thinking, “This is crazy, God! Am I really supposed to encourage people to put turquoise tables in their front yards?” But, he showed me a common thread in everyone I spoke to – a desire to connect on a deeper more meaningful level with people in their community, right where they live.

Tables continue to pop up in communities across the country, even as far away as Uganda. Meaningful relationships are happening at turquoise tables like Julie’s, where she hosts Parties with a Purpose. And, Heather’s, who has gotten to know a neighbor she never thought possible. And, Gindi’s, who hosts monthly front yard neighborhood gatherings.

God multiplied the hallelujahs of one turquoise table into a movement of Front Yard People all longing to live out the command to love our neighbors.

It’s not always easy. Love rarely is. Loving our neighbors requires getting close and personal with messy lives. Love requires being present, even when it’s inconvenient. Love asks us to be brave and move outside our comfort zone. Love invites us to move outside and into the neighborhood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

{A Deidox Documentary filmed for Christ Together Greater Austin}

What about you? What does your neighborhood look like and are you up for taking the dare, too? Share your story below and we can encourage one another to be Front Yard People. 

Kristin Schell / Posts / Blog
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. A gatherer at heart, Kristin brings people together for delicious food and stories at her table and online home www.kristinschell.com.
  • Mindy Mason von Gunten

    I love EVERYTHING about this story & got a lump in my throat watching the video! What a beautiful, simple -yet profound-way to minister and love on folks. I don’t even know you and I’m proud of you!! I’m already thinking about how I could do something similar. Sharing this on FB 🙂

    March 4th, 2015 13:46
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    • Kristin_theschellcafe
      http://www.kristinschell.com

      Mindy, What a sweet and encouraging note. Thank you. Please let me know if I can share stories or ideas — we have a growing community of friends from all over the country who are learning together what it means to love our neighbors. Come join us! xo, Kristin

      March 4th, 2015 14:04
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      • Mindy Mason von Gunten

        So now I’m curious..how long ago did you start this? and do you go out there a couple times a wk?

        March 4th, 2015 15:39
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        • Kristin_theschellcafe
          http://www.kristinschell.com

          I put the turquoise table in my front yard in October of 2013. We live in Austin so I’m fortunate to be able to use the table pretty much year-round. Yes, we are outside at the table a lot. I share lots of stories from our table and ideas from others too on the website and via a newsletter. Come connect with us there — we are an encouraging community all just trying to live out community where we live!

          March 4th, 2015 15:47
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  • Shannon Evans
    http://www.agreatparade.com/

    I love this idea. I think I might just “borrow” it! 🙂 As an introvert, I sometimes struggle with how to invite neighbors over without making it feel like a hugely orchestrated event. This is so simple and natural… I’m inspired!

    March 4th, 2015 15:29
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    • Kristin_theschellcafe
      http://www.kristinschell.com

      Shannon, funny you should mention being an introvert. I’m a card-carrying extrovert, but my husband is an introvert. Having people in our home was a joy for me, but not so much of a blessing at times for him! Meeting outside, in the front yard IS a very organic and simple way that meets so many needs. I’m hopeful you will join our community and “borrow” the idea. It’s a gift meant to be shared! So glad you chimed in, thank you! xo, Kristin

      March 4th, 2015 15:44
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  • Meredith Bernard

    I love, love, love this idea…and it doesn’t hurt that turquoise is my favor-I-te color. <3 I heard about this at Allume and I'm so on board. Come spring, my own picnic table is getting painted turquoise. And even though we live on a farm down a long dirt road, I plan on inviting people to gather 'round. 😉 Thank you for sharing your story and it's so great to see how God is using this seed to plant community around the world. <3

    March 4th, 2015 18:45
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    • Kristin_theschellcafe
      http://www.kristinschell.com

      Meredith — I would travel down a long dirt road to gather with you! Do it! 😉 And, we are turquoise kindreds. Please keep me posted and share stories from you table. I’m excited for you. xo, K

      March 4th, 2015 21:51
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  • Lynn D. Morrissey

    Kristin, what a wonderful, God-inspired idea! Who would have thought?! Especially you, right? I’m thinking just moving that table from the back yard to the front was a signal that you were hospitable and interested. And you gave people a literal rest-stop. We used to have a front porch with rockers and a swing. Neighbors would often drop by and “sit for a spell” (and no, I’m not from TX! 🙂 )….but it was that idea of visible welcome and a place to relax that I’m sure made a difference. My husband and I often walked in that neighborhood (and still do in this one), and made a point to greet our neighbors and get to know them. Sometimes, though, we’re the only ones walking. Maybe we need a table too. Not sure about turquoise, but hey, God gives us different tastes….as long as we use them to show others to “taste and see that God is good.” Thank you so much for a wonderful post.
    Blessings,
    Lynn Morrissey

    March 4th, 2015 19:01
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    • Kristin_theschellcafe
      http://www.kristinschell.com

      Lynn, I love that you say, “sit for a spell.” I can’t tell you how many times I say that! The turquoise table is very much like the old front porch, but sadly even in Texas, we see fewer and fewer people gathering on porches. I love that you and your husband walk in your neighborhood. I remember when all four of my kiddos were babies I would walk {and, walk. and walk} just to get out of the house and so they would sleep. I didn’t meet too many people either, but I sure did learn a lot about their comings-and-goings. Those walks started a practice of praying for my neighbors as I would pass by their homes. Thanks for being here today. xoxo, Kristin

      March 4th, 2015 21:49
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      • Lynn D. Morrissey

        Yes, exactly, dear Kristin, you pray as you go. And when we walked w/ our daughter (and actually still do), she knows all the dogs! That’s another way to meet your neighbors! 🙂 Love what you are doing here. I’m assuming you’ve written a book by this title? The Turquoise Table?

        March 5th, 2015 6:46
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  • Bri McKoy
    http://oursavorylife.com/

    I loved this post! God has the best ideas, doesn’t He? Thank you for being so willing to follow Him, Kristin. How beautiful! I am completely inspired.

    March 4th, 2015 19:27
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    • Kristin_theschellcafe
      http://www.kristinschell.com

      So glad you are inspired Bri! And, yes — this has been a definite testimony to what can happen when we say “yes” to God! xo, Kristin

      March 4th, 2015 21:40
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  • Robin Dance
    http://www.pensieve.me/

    Even though I was already familiar with your story, I LOVE hearing it from YOU. How the Lord ordered your steps, how you **knew** when you knew, what the response has been–both for you and your family, but well beyond–is incredible! And beautiful. And inspiring! And…….tempting to try. Thank you for showing there’s not just one way and great ideas rarely live in boxes :).

    Your countenance is radiant when you share this story–and I see a sweet picture of Jesus. xo

    March 4th, 2015 21:05
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    • Kristin_theschellcafe
      http://www.kristinschell.com

      Thank you, Robin. God is indeed hard to keep in a box. 😉 Grateful for your encouraging words. ox, K

      March 4th, 2015 21:37
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  • Alecia Simersky
    http://www.aleciasimersky.com/

    I keep hearing about this turquise table and I’m glad to finally read about it myself. Gindi has been an inspiration to me. Who knows? One day I may find a turquise table in my own front yard (I wonder how the HOA people are going to deal with that, HA!)

    March 4th, 2015 23:33
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    • Kristin_theschellcafe
      http://www.kristinschell.com

      Alecia, We’ve had some creative folks get around HOAs — one family stained the base of the table and only painted the top turquoise. Another family has a long cardboard table they pull out on nights they are gathering and they top it with a turquoise table cloth. Fingers crossed for you! xo, Kristin

      March 5th, 2015 0:03
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    • Christine Wright
      http://www.livingjoel225.com/

      Alecia!! I’ve wondered (and mentioned to Gindi!) the same HOA concerns! Those are great ideas, Kristin.

      March 5th, 2015 4:59
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  • Jennifer

    What a GREAT idea and bold! I think our HOA would flip if I did that, but so fun! I love that our yard is a haven for little and big people to gather. I open the garage by 4:30 p.m. most week days. Our boys and I go out to play…we LOVE it when a neighbor pops by for a visit on a dog walk or kids raid our garage to play with toys. We had 6 kids in our driveway the other night and in the yard playing with NERF guns…ages 3-8 years. A sweet lady from the back of the neighborhood drove by and rolled down her window to say…I love seeing this…it looks like a park…here! What a fun idea to create a gathering place in FRONT of your home. Talk on!

    March 5th, 2015 10:32
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  • pastordt

    Oh, Kristin! This is just fabulous – in every way I can think of. So love what you’ve done, what you’re doing. Wish I had a yard that could host a turquoise table, cuz I’d do it in a heart beat. I love our home, but it’s in a strange kind of neighborhood – walled and gated houses. My statement is to refuse to ever shut our gate. But a table would not be seen from the street. Ever. You’d have to walk onto our property to see it and no one in this town does such a thing! But I’m thinking and praying about other ways to be more hospitable – it not to my direct neighbors, then to those who come here for any reason, especially those who come for spiritual direction. Thanks for all of this. LOVE the video.

    March 8th, 2015 1:51
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