the turquoise table [book review]

Nonfiction: Self-Help

A simple way to connect your neighborhood, your community and build friendships. 

Desperate for a way to slow down and connect, Kristin Schell put an ordinary picnic table in her front yard, painted it turquoise, and began inviting friends and neighbors to join her. Life changed in her community and it can change in yours, too.

Today, Turquoise Tables are inviting individuals to connect with each other in nearly all fifty states and seven countries. Ordinary people like you wanting to make a difference right where they live.

Community and friendship are waiting just outside your front door.

people are hungry for connection and a place to belong.
— Kristin Schell, The Turquoise Table

Aaron and I moved from Texas to San Diego over four years ago, and people often ask, "What was the hardest thing about moving?" Hands down, we'd agree community has been the hardest adjustment we've had to make.

Previously, in our tiny Texas town, we ate at people's houses often. Some would invite us over for dinner, or we'd just drop by someone's house at least once a week. In addition to those drop-ins, we had people at our house almost every night of the week. 

Except Thursdays because we told our friends and students we needed at least one night to ourselves.

When we moved to San Diego, we shared meals at restaurants instead of in homes and met people at places instead of riding together. We didn't have a regular schedule of people coming to our table or going to others' tables in order to share our lives.

That was really hard for us--me, especially.

I tried lots of things: dinner for 6 at 6 with students, an annual pumpkin carving party, a workout group, Little Monday Dinners, and the list goes on and on. But nothing really stuck, or people just didn't show. We'd hear, "Yeah, we'll be there!" but those who said they'd come didn't, so we ended up freezing a lot of food in the early days.


I read this book, The Turquoise Table, based on a recommendation from Jamie Ivey's book club. Have you listened to her podcast yet? If not, listen to her live interview with author Kristin Schell: you'll fall in love with Jamie and want to listen to all of her other episodes, and you'll learn more about this crazy turquoise table.

As I was reading this book, my heart yearned for connection with people. I read Kristin's words of feeling lonely but overwhelmed by the thought of putting herself out there. I'd already been down the road of rejection--we'd had too many sport-watching parties where no one came--and I'd decided loneliness was better than rejection. I pushed down the desire to be hospitable in my home. 

But I read about how Kristin put herself outside in her front yard with no expectation except to be there, and I thought maybe I could do something like that. I looked around my house and outside my house: our friends had just made us a beautiful swing I loved, and we had enough patio furniture to allow people to be around, but I was still scared.

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Kristin poses questions at the end of some of the chapters, and just when I'd get to the point in her story that I didn't think I could do what she was doing, she'd prompt my heart.

  • Make a list of backyard activities you and your family enjoy: Aaron loves sitting around the fire, and I love sitting on the swing.
  • What aspect of hospitality feels hard for you? What holds you back? rejection, inconvenience, time
  • If you could change something about where you live, what would it be?
    safety, accessibility to neighbors
  • What is your favorite way to gather with your friends? in a home with a homemade meal

I remember answering that last question. My heart just sank. When was the last time we'd been in anyone's home? When was the last time anyone besides students had been in ours?

So, I decided to make a change. Aaron and I have some great couple friends we started having dinner with every Monday. We rotate houses, and the host cooks, and we have created community in that way. We show up while the host is still cooking and chat until dinner is ready. There's no pressure; we're all just there for community.

I also started doing my morning routine on my back patio swing. The first couple days--weeks, really--I would jump at every sound. We live on a highly trafficked street, and I was nervous people would see me out there. (Um, but wasn't that the point?)

After I finished the book, I wrote on the Jamie Ivey Summer Book Club page:

"This book was such a challenge to me. I live on a street with lots of homeless traffic, and our house has been robbed in the past, so I've always been nervous to sit and live outside. No more! Since we cleaned up our yard on Saturday, I have no excuse to not start my day sitting on my back patio.
So, this week, that will be my first step: allow God to rid my heart of the fear I have in my own community.
My second step: walk down the street and meet my neighbor. My husband has met him before, but I've never extended
my hospitality toward him. Maybe I"ll make him one of the treats from the book!"

Confession: I still haven't met our neighbor.

However, I think God has helped me be brave in my community! And the weekly dinner with our friends is still happening--it gives us all so much life, and I'm so grateful for it.


Favorite Quotes:

Take every opportunity to open your life and home to others (Romans 12:13).

Beware the barrenness of a busy life.

I was trying to open my life and home at every opportunity; going wide but not deep.

We live in the digital age--the most connected era in all of history--yet statistics show we're lonelier than ever.

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other. -Mother Teresa

I was doing instead of being, trying hard to execute community, and it seemed so contrived.

We've got to debunk the myth that hospitality is the same as entertainment.

Hospitality is the love of strangers.

[M]ost social ills can be healed or prevented by the simple act of talking to one another, face-to-face, at a common table.

Because they were frequently persecuted and local inns were often dangerous, Christians relied on the hospitality of strangers for a place to sleep, meals, and safety.

It takes specials hearts to welcome a complete stranger into the fold.

The word recipe means both to give and receive.

Vulnerability presents a paradox--the only way to wholeness is through our brokenness. In our weakness, we are strong.Being in community means depending on other people. Our weaknesses reveal our dependency on God and others.

Lord, bring us together. Start something fresh and anew for Your glory. Right here in our neighborhood. On this very street. Knit us together. Remind us the value of community.

The greatest way God can work in our lives is through community.

Let's be people who build our lives around each other.

Today there are Turquoise Tables in nearly every state from California to Maine and five countries.
BooksJessica LittleComment