Series 05: For the Love of New Beginnings | Episode 03
Creating Connection In The New Year With Kristin Schell & The Turquoise Table
It’s Episode #3 of our phenomenal “For the Love of New Beginnings” Series. This week, Jen talks to Kristin Schell, the author of The Turquoise Table and leader of the Front Yard People movement. Kristin shares how she was longing for connection and belonging in her community and was struck by the realization that she didn’t know many of her neighbors, their names or much less their stories. This moved her to take a step toward that connection, and she started with a brightly colored turquoise picnic table that she put smack dab in the middle of her front yard. Kristin’s simple act of inviting connection at a turquoise picnic table has spawned a movement that has spread across the country; from individuals and families putting turquoise tables in their front yards right along with churches, businesses and parks getting involved. We’ll all be inspired and challenged to get to know our neighbors in the new year with the simple ideas and resources Kristin passes on that can bring the joy of community right to our own front yards.
Narrator: Welcome to the “For the Love Podcast” with bestselling author Jen Hatmaker. Come on in, and join us for a chat with Jen and friends about all the things we love. Now, here’s Jen.
Jen: Hey, hey you guys! Hey, it’s Jen Hatmaker. Welcome to the For The Love
Podcast. I am so glad to be with you today. We are in a series that is so life-giving to me. We are talking about “For the Love of New Beginnings,” and I’ve been so inspired by it. This is just that time of year where there’s something noble about turning our eyes to this calendar year and asking: “Where do we want to develop?” and “What do we want to strengthen?” and “Which parts of our lives do we want to enrich and deepen and bring more meaning to?” I think these are good questions to ask. I actually think New Year’s resolutions–or whatever you want to call them–get a bad rap. I think this is a great time of year to turn our eyes to new beginnings.
I asked this guest on because I really love the way she is living. I like the way she’s doing hospitality. I like the way she’s using her home, her energy, her time, and I sincerely believe that if we will dial in today and really listen to her story and learn from it and be inspired by it–because this is the simplest thing in the world–that this could be one of those new beginnings that really changes our neighborhoods and changes the way that our family does life. In other words, this is a kind of new beginning that I’m wishing for all of us. I think that’s what it is. I’m putting a new beginning in front of us that I am hoping we embrace as a community because I think it would make such a difference in our world.
Today’s guest is Kristin Schell. A lot of you guys know Kristin. She is lively and spunky and sparkly, and she’s basically on a mission to love her neighbors. Kristin basically put a picnic table, a turquoise picnic table in her front yard, and started inviting her neighbors and friends and even strangers to hang out and do life together. That’s it. That’s the most simple concept there is. She said, “I feel disconnected. I want to be more connected. I’m going to put a turquoise table in my front yard.” And, you guys, it has turned in to this whole thing. So it started like that. Since then, Kristin has written a book called The Turquoise Table, and this whole new concept of hospitality unfolded behind it.
Before long, The Turquoise Table led to this movement called “Front Yard People.” It’s just the best. In fact, she’s going to tell us in a few minutes. You’re going to love this part of our interview about “Front Yard Fridays.” There’s just so much in here, you guys, that every single one of us can get our hands around…just ordinary people who want to create community where they live. There are Turquoise Tables at this point all across America, all 50 states, and in eight countries. From something that started from a $100 purchase, this has gone literally around the world, and Kristin, she’s like a neighbor. She’s like a friend we’d have next door.
I want you to hear her tell how this started and why, and then how it has grown and what it has meant? She’s been all over the place. She’s been on The Today Show talking about this.
She travels around the country speaking at conferences and events and teaching people how to open their homes and lives. Kristin lives right here with me in Austin with her husband, Tony, and they’ve got four kids: three in high school and one in fifth grade. So, we are living a very, very similar life. This was a really meaningful discussion for me, and I hope it is for you, too, because this is one thing that everyone of us can add into our lives in 2018 to create more meaningful homes, meaningful families, and meaningful communities. I’m thrilled to bring you today, Kristin Schell.
Jen: Kristin. Kristin, welcome. I’m so, so glad to have you on the show. Thank you.
Kristin: Oh, you’re welcome. I’m so glad to be here. Thanks.
Jen: I was just telling Kristin offline before we started recording that those
of you who don’t yet know Kristin–I know a ton of you do–but those of you who don’t, you’re just about to fall hard. I’m excited just to talk about you and who you are and some of the amazing things that you’ve done. I’m a smitten kitten about The Turquoise Table.
Kristin: Oh, I like that.
Jen: Smitten kitten. Yeah. I love it all. I love it so hard I want to marry it. I think all
of us, everybody was ….
Kristin: I need a t-shirt that says that.
Jen: Yeah. Listen, I’m here for your marketing plan. If you want to send your people to me, I’ve got some ideas.
Kristin: There is the endorsement. Yeah. She wants to marry it.
Jen: I think probably everybody listening, you and I both included, struggle sometimes with sort of getting into our own little bubble whether it’s with our own family… like, my whole extended family lives here in Austin on both sides. My parents, my in-laws, all my siblings and their families, and my sister-in-law and her family. My own family could be my bubble because I love them, and we enjoy each other, and so I could do nothing but family for tons of time and never ever bust out of that. But maybe it’s like our church friends, or our career friends, or I don’t know. The thing is sometimes we don’t even know the people who live next door to us, right? It’s such a weird time to be alive. But… we’re women. We’re crazy for connection, but because we’re so busy or we’re shuttling kids around or we’re working long hours or all of the above, I don’t know that we really give ourselves a chance to just be a good neighbor.
It feels like some sort of optional line item that we just offload, but I think everybody wants to know, “How do I do this better?” Or maybe even, “Where do I start?” What I love… I love, love, love what you have started with The Turquoise Table and with Front Yard People. Best ever. I told everybody a little bit before we hopped on about you and what those are, but I want to hear it from you. Can you tell us what got you started down this unconventional path to get to know your neighbors?
Kristin: Well, it is unconventional. This is one of those things I could never have dreamed up, right?
Kristin: In many ways, you just have to live it and just trust that, “Okay. This is where things might be headed.” It was born out of frustration from everything that you just said. There were all these little bubbles that I was living in, but I felt like with four children and then our church community, and our friend communities, what was happening, Jen, is I was going wide, but I wasn’t going deep.
Jen: I get that.
Kristin: I was surface level–loving everybody with all these different sports with the kids, or just popping in to the Sunday School thing–and I don’t know, it just started to feel like I was skimming the surface. It started to feel like I was skimming the surface.
Kristin: I wanted to go deeper. I think that you get to a point in your life that you want your relationships to matter with your family and with the people that you love.
Jen: It’s true.
Kristin: That’s where it was that I couldn’t figure it out because I am just not that smart, and so I would try to do more instead of doing less because that’s …
Jen: Oh, I love that.
Kristin: That’s what I was thinking. I was like, “Well, I-”
Jen: Like, “I’m going to join one more thing. I’m going to put one more thing.”
Jen: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Totally.
Kristin: Does that make sense? It totally makes sense, right? Like, “Okay. If I’m not going deep, then let’s just keep letting it bubble up to the surface, right?” I’m opposite of everything that I should have been doing, and so I would invite more people over, or I would think, “Oh, let’s just start a book club because then that will be really good and that will be meaningful. Right?”
Kristin: Well, then people would get here, and I would be so darn tired that I was not even present. It was just one more thing. I was living this life and raising the kids and realizing, “Okay. I am clearly not doing this well, and so maybe it’s time that maybe I ask. Maybe I should pray and say, ‘Hey, Somebody wiser than me. Oh, right, You God, maybe instead of leaping ahead of you, Lord, I’m going to let you show me how this could be done.’” Because we know God is pro-people. He loves His people. He created us to be together, and yet I was failing at doing that.
Jen: Yeah. He’s got a thing for neighbors even.
Kristin: That’s the thing. It turned out just weird, this whole Turquoise Table thing. Who would have thought that that would have been God’s answer.
Jen: No, I know. It’s because you can’t even invent it.
Kristin: No, you can’t.
Jen: How did it come to be? How did Turquoise Table come out of like just a smattering of Bible studies and book clubs and too many dinner invites? How did that emerged from the mire?
Kristin: Right. Well actually, I had a little spiritual meltdown, and we haven’t even talked about this. You were actually at that spiritual meltdown that I had, so it’s your fault, Jen. No.
Kristin: It’s going to be safe. I promise the story is okay. You were at the Verge Conference. Remember the Verge Conference?
Jen: Oh, totally.
Kristin: Kind of like a couple of years ago.
Jen: Maybe five years ago?
Kristin: At least. Yeah.
Jen: Yeah. At least.
Kristin: All of these was going on in my head. I’m living in the minivan. I want my family at dinner. I’m casually waving at the people who live literally across the street from me. I don’t even know their names.
Kristin: All of these things are circling around in my brain, and then I go to the Verge Conference. Do you remember? You spoke, and how they did that, it was like TED Talks. You spoke for probably 10 minutes.
Kristin: Then the lights went down, and then great music came on, and then they would show these documentaries. Well, Jo Saxton, our friend, came on stage. I didn’t know Jo at the time, and so she came on, and she gave the words and the context of discipleship, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” Then, her beautiful …
Jen: That is so Jo.
Kristin: “You can’t be what you can’t see.” I lost it. I was so mad at God at that moment because I was like, “I can’t be what I can’t see, so You better show me.” I didn’t know it was okay to be mad with God, right? I didn’t know that that was allowed.
Kristin: I didn’t know that I could shake my hands up with 1,200 people in the middle of the convention hall and scream, “Show me, God! Show me!” And He did. So then the lights went down, and it got really quiet, and I’m sobbing because I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing to love neighbors, to use hospitality as a gift, all these things… and this documentary came up, and it’s produced by Deidox Films, and it’s about the story of a woman named Ludmilla. Ludmilla lives in Prague, the most Atheist country in the Eastern Bloc.
She’s an 84-year-old widow, and after her husband died she asked the Lord, “What is it that I’m supposed to do?” He replied to her, or so the story goes, “You are my ambassador to the kingdom of Heaven.”
So she put this bronze plaque on her brownstone, and every day, she would open up her doors to whoever would come. You have to see this tiny little apartment. She would have to move the tiny kitchen table over so she could unfold a bed at night to sleep. There were no provisions.
Kristin: Ludmilla was not consulting Pinterest on how to invite people into her home, right?
Jen: Right. This isn’t like a Brooklyn Brownstone with four stories.
Kristin: No, no. Really, it was like … Okay. She might have had tea, but you know what she did? I had never seen this. The ministry of presence. Now we talk about that some now, but five years ago, I had never heard of these words… ministry of presence. Right after Jo says, “You can’t be what you can’t see,” I scream at God, “Show me.” Then I see Ludmilla model it in such a simple way.
Kristin: Then, I was like, “Okay. I’m going to be Ludmilla.” Then I got really obsessed with Ludmilla. All my friends were getting mad because they were like, “Kristin, quit talking about Ludmilla. You’re weird.”
Jen: We’re over Ludmilla.
Kristin: Over Ludmilla. Okay. “It’s okay for us to all have imaginary friends, but this is taking it to the next level,” but it was like I needed this visual. So, I kept asking. I said, “Lord, give me my table. Show me how I can be a modern-day version in America of Ludmilla.” I was having a party–a backyard barbecue actually–with a neighbor, with our friend, Suzy Davis. And we were supposed to have it at her house or her lake house, and at the last minute, they were having some plumbing issues and so you can’t have a party without some way to go potty.
Jen: Yep. No, you can’t.
Kristin: So we switched it to my house, but I didn’t have any backyard furniture because, I don’t know, we have four kids, and we’re poor. I don’t know? We just didn’t have any furniture, and so I thought, “Oh gosh. What am I going to do?” Tony, my husband said, “You cannot spend a dime.” I thought, “Well, if I can’t spend… ”
Jen: Okay. I’m familiar with that
Kristin: Yeah. He’s like, “You can’t spend a dime,” but I figured, “Well, if I can’t spend a dime, then I can spend $100 on a picnic table.” So, I did. I ordered a picnic table from Lowe’s. Literally $100. They delivered it, and they plopped it in the front yard to find out where it was supposed to go for this party. When I walked out, and I saw it, I was like, “Oh.” It took my breath away. I knew that that was maybe–well, not maybe–that was where I could do life with people in a really simple, easy, easy way. That’s how the table landed. We put it in the back and had our little party, but then after the party was over, I painted it turquoise because it’s my favorite color, and it has been in the front yard ever since.
Jen: This is so bananas.
Kristin: Bananas. Right?
Jen: I just love it. Walk us forward from there. You’ve got Ludmilla, she’s our obvious patroness setting this example. You’ve got a turquoise table. You decided to keep it in your front yard, and then what?
Kristin: Well, I didn’t really have a plan… surprise, surprise, to anyone who knows me. But I knew at this point, I needed to go out there. My fall back was: thank goodness that the official motto of the city of Austin where we live is “Keep Austin Weird.”
Kristin: Because I figure I could totally get away with anything. If it all went south, I could just say, “I was just doing the ‘Keep Austin Weird’ thing.”
Jen: I’m just weird. Listen, one of my neighbors has chickens in her front yard.
Kristin: Seriously. We can get away with anything.
Jen: It just works around here.
Kristin: That’s the level of detail that God’s in that I would be able to just claim this as weird if the whole front yard table thing didn’t work out.
Kristin: But it did, and the very first day that I went outside, I met a neighbor who I had never seen before. Never in the HEB, not even passing, and she had never seen me either. She was out walking, and we struck up a conversation; she sat down at the table, and now, Susan and I… I cannot even imagine not knowing Susan. It was almost immediate affirmation that when we show up and we’re present … That was it. That’s all. I wasn’t even thinking anything beyond that. Just show up and be present and good things can happen.
Jen: It’s true. People are craving spaces to belong and to be known so incredibly deeply. It’s almost hilarious that we get so overwrought on, “How does my house look? Is this crepe perfect? Is the menu on point?” Nobody cares.
Kristin: Nobody cares.
Jen: Really, nobody that I know cares.
Jen: What we care about is belonging and knowing one another and safe spaces to sit and have coffee and to talk and laugh and be loved. This is the stuff of life. I’m so convinced alongside of you.
Kristin: Absolutely. That’s what the Lord was teaching me, but then showing me, and just saying, “Go do it. Go do it, girlfriend.” Guess what? Every time we go out there–I mean, not always meeting a new neighbor–but it does. When we slow down long enough just to be present, my goodness, it’s incredible.
Jen: I love this. What I want to really want to know is how The Turquoise Table turned into a whole thing, you guys. This isn’t just like some random family in Austin who has a table in their front yard at this point. It totally zipped forward. Can you talk to us about how did this transition from being $100 table from Lowe’s in your front yard to being a book and a movement? This is a whole situation at this point. Not only do you have the book, you’ve got the “Front Yard People” movement. Girl, this grew some legs and started running.
Kristin: This grew some legs.
Jen: Tell us about it.
Kristin: Well, the preface to all of that is it grew legs because I wasn’t the only one who was longing for this connection, obviously.
Jen: That’s right.
Kristin: That’s why the turquoise table isn’t the hero of the story. Obviously, God’s people are, and that’s why it has grown, but it really has. There have been a couple of “Aha” moments where I thought, “Oh, I might need to pay attention to this.” Because I’m just a girl with the table. After I met Susan, I thought, “Well, I’m going to tell some of the neighbors about it.” I knew a handful of our neighbors, but I knew the neighbors who were most like me: moms who had similar carpool schedules and moms who had children of a certain age.
Kristin: What I realized is that I was a little smug when people would say, “Do you know your neighbors?” I’d be like, “Oh, totally. Absolutely, I know my neighbors.” I started thinking, “Well, but do I really?” I started walking around and naming everyone, and I realized that I only knew about every third house, which is still pretty good, but I wanted to know others as well. I thought, “Well, I’m going to text a few of the friends who I do know, and share this idea–this hypothesis–of being front yard people and see what they think.” I texted them. It was super spontaneous: “Stop by the table tomorrow.” And all four women showed up which was really impressive. I don’t know. Sometimes you text people, “Oh, I’m too busy or whatnot.” I thought spontaneity has a thing going here, so that’s also a theme at the table.
We sat down, and I shared my idea and told them that going wide but not deep, and the heads were just nodding like bobbles, “Yes, yes, yes.” I had hoped that they would buy into it and support the whole concept of me having a Turquoise Table. What I never imagined was that, literally, while we were sitting at the table, they all ordered their own.
Jen: I can’t even…
Kristin: I know. They’re like, “Can we order them?” I’m like, “Yeah. From Lowe’s.”
They’re like, “Do you care?” I’m like, “Why would I care?” They’re like, “What color of paint?”
Jen: Do you care?
Kristin: I’m like, “It’s nifty turquoise.” They’re like, “Okay. Good.” They’re like, “Done. Done, and done. Mine is coming Saturday. How did you get yours Sunday?” Whatever.
Jen: It’s amazing.
Kristin: Then, I thought, “Well, okay.” Then my sister-in-law in San Antonio wanted one and then a friend in South Carolina and a friend in Nebraska. It was one of those things where it was just scratching an itch that so desperately needed to be scratched that four years later, there are turquoise tables in all 50 states in eight countries.
Jen: I cannot even …
Kristin: I know.
Jen: Could you in your wildest imagination have ever thought about this would happen?
Kristin: No. No. No. It just goes to show the creativity of … Yeah. No. You should hear Tony, my husband, laugh about it. He’s like, “Really? This is a pretty darn good gig, lady.” He’s like, “You just get to sit in your front yard and tell people how to love their neighbors.”
Kristin: I’m like, “Yeah. Well…”
Jen: That’s where you’re like, “I guess this is part of my job. I need to sit at the table with a glass of wine and my neighbors, honey, it’s my career.”
Kristin: It is my career.
Jen: Yes. Yes. I like what you said because I see this a lot. How you said it scratched an itch, and I’ve been doing ministry and serving people in and out of the church for honestly, my whole adult life.
Kristin: Your whole life. Yeah.
Jen: It’s been interesting to watch–for lack of a better word, sometimes programs, they’re all very well intentioned. No doubt about it. Everybody means well, and every program has a good intention, but–where people will end up pouring endless amounts of energy and time and human resources and financial resources into these programs designed to either bring people together or disciple people or nourish them in some way, and yet, sometimes it’s like it’s $100 table in a random front yard and that is where the movement of God is. It’s interesting to watch where the wind is at our backs, right? I think it tells us what people are actually hungry for. Does everybody really want a thing that’s going to take another night out of their week that’s going to be difficult on the family that’s going to put strain and stress on schedules? Or do people want to gather with their neighbors around turquoise tables and have a hamburger?
To me, it speaks to where God is actually at work. You hardly had to do anything. You barely tap your finger on that first domino and off it went, which tells me there’s something here that is really common, that’s really universal: this need that we all have to belong to one another. And I just love it. I love its simplicity. You know what else I like? This isn’t another thing you’re adding on to your calendar. It’s just at your house, and you’re just going to go sit in your own front yard. You’re already having snacks or you’re already having coffee or you’re already cooking dinner. This weaves into the life you’re already living and just invites people into it. Do you think that is what is drawing people into this? What do you think is the magic here? What is the secret sauce? Why are there turquoise tables in all 50 states and in eight countries?
Kristin: Oh, it is the best hospitality hack ever. Hands down.
Jen: Is it?
Kristin: And you nailed it because we don’t need one more thing. I have commitment phobia all the time. I know you have lived in commitment phobia.
Kristin: It’s because we don’t have the margins. It’s like if you were to invite me to something on November 5th or something, I would look at my calendar, and I might freeze up a little. I’d get a little tense, and I’d be like, “Oh, I can’t commit. It’s almost…whenever out, and I can’t do that.” But if I’m just going to show up in my own front yard, and I don’t have to make a meal–or an elaborate one–and I don’t have to clean the house, and it’s an extension of who we already are. And it’s so doable. I feel like sometimes we do get caught up in the difference in entertainment and hospitality, especially as women, and we want things to be beautiful. I do too, and I still do, and there’s a time and a place for that, but when it prevents us from doing anything at all, that’s the trap we have to watch.
Kristin: Then, there’s the comparison. It’s like, “Oh my gosh. Her table is so much prettier. My table sucks. I can’t even do anything because I can’t even make it pretty.” Well, this is a picnic table. Come on. There’s not a whole lot of table beautification that goes on.
Kristin: It levels the playing field for everyone, and that to me, is just … You’re right. You nailed it, too. No more programs. I can’t put one more thing on my schedule, but I do have to eat dinner.
Jen: Right. Who can?
Kristin: If it’s paper plates and pizza out in the front yard, and by the way, we get to hang out with a few other friends, that’s the need that’s being met, and it’s just working.
Kristin: Deep, wonderful relationships are happening. You know, we’re in sort of an instant fix society. We want things, and we want to have them really quickly, and oh my gosh, if I didn’t feel a way after I went to a certain program or a certain dinner or something, then we have this sort of defeatist attitude. When you’re in your front yard, and it’s like this, you push pause when you end a conversation and then three days later, you see your friend or your neighbor again, and it’s like this continual thing that just keeps happening, and it’s so organic. It cannot get more grassroots than a picnic table in your front yard.
Jen: Totally. That’s just it. This is accessible to everybody everywhere, and there’s something really cozy and a beautiful example it sets to have it in your front yard. If I’m walking down my street, and one of my neighbors has an adorable turquoise table in her front yard, and a bunch of my other neighbors are gathered around it, and they’re laughing, and it’s just like the easiest thing I ever saw on earth, I would invite myself.
Jen: It’s this beautiful contagious hospitality that’s on display. Literally, here we are sitting in front of our neighborhood connecting together, and it’s so easy and wonderful. Do you find that around your table and your yard, do you do more of like: “Today I’m going to invite this group of neighbors, or this group of friends,” or is it more like, “I’m going to go out and sit at my table and see who walks by,” or is it some combination?
Kristin: It’s a combination. Absolutely, it is. We, now, in our neighborhood, have what we call “Front Yard Fridays.” And we, literally, it’s not all year around because July, August and even parts of September don’t count because in Austin, nobody can go outside. Right?
Jen: No. Thank you. That’s right.
Kristin: Anyway, you’re off the hook there, but in the other months when we can gather in the front yard, every Friday it’s somebody else’s front yard. We don’t have an email list. We don’t have like a big invitation. We have a sign, a wooden sign that’s painted with red spray paint that says 5:31 because we thought if it was 5:30, no one would remember if it was 5:00 or 5:30, so it’s 5:31. Whoever’s house it’s hanging in front of, that’s where you gather or you show up on Friday if you can. People know that we bring lawn chairs, we bring coolers, we bring whatever. Sometimes five people will show up. Sometimes all 50 neighbors will show up.
Kristin: We have a deal with the local pizza place. We have like a little tip jar or now, everybody Venmos. We just have a way that there’s always some pizza. Somebody always brings things, but there’s no plan and there’s also no expectation. And yet, it’s been going on forever because it’s so easy and doable. So we have that, which is the regular thing. Then, I do, I go out there, and I love it. Whether people come or don’t, either way it is a gift. Because if not, I have like just … I don’t know… maybe the only 15 or 20 minutes I have all day long where somebody is not yelling or tagging or asking or begging or whatever on my time.
Jen: That’s right.
Kristin: It’s just my little time to re-center and regroup. Then, if people stop by, then I’m there. And then, we have what’s called table time. If somebody needs to pour their heart out, I always say it, “You get what you pay for. I’m not a counselor, but I will listen and hold your hands and cry or laugh or whatever we need to do at the table.” It’s become synonymous with really a safe place just to show up and be what you need to be in that moment.
Jen: If I tried, I could not love it more. Even if I tried. It’s so good, and what I love about it is it’s so simple, and it’s so accessible. I have long said–and I say this with love in my heart for the church, obviously; I’m a pastor’s daughter, a pastor’s wife for crying out loud; we have a church, but the church just, man–we just like to complicate things.
Jen: We like to program it and systemize it and formulize it and put committees over it.
Jen: The Lord have grace. Do you know what I mean? Lord, have grace.
Sometimes we make things too hard, and the work that you’re talking about, to me, just feels incredibly holy and very, very sacred and really, really important and extremely simple. Anybody listening, you could have a table in your front yard by tomorrow.
Jen: Lowe’s delivers.
Jen: Lowe’s delivers. What’s the name of the turquoise paint you like?
Kristin: Nifty Turquoise (Sherwin Williams) because … Nifty Turquoise. It was like picking at an OPI paint color for your fingernails. It was like, “Well, that one sounds the best.”
That’s literally the sign that went into making it. I liked the name Nifty Turquoise.
That’s literally the sign that went into making it. I liked the name Nifty Turquoise. But you have touched on something that’s so important. We love our church. The church has been huge in our spiritual formation and remains so, and I remember going in and seeking the counsel of our pastor when I thought that this might become a thing, and I needed to pay attention to it. Let me tell you… when you said, “Lord, have grace,” let me tell you what he said to me. “Every ounce of my being wants to co-op this and take it and turn it into something for our church”. He said, “I’m not going to do it. I’m not.” He said, “Here’s why? You would kill it a thousand times over.” He said exactly what you just said. He said, “We will program it. We will committee it. It might not even be turquoise by the time we’re done with it.”
He said, “Here’s what I want to do instead. We’re going to give you a prayer team, and we’re going to send you out to do what we are saying with words we’re supposed to be doing.” There’s tiny pockets of people everywhere we live. His benediction and blessing to me was, “You will reach more people in your front yard than I ever can from a pulpit on a single Sunday. Go and do this with our full blessing and God’s anointing to do this.” And that was so incredible to me to have that blessing and freedom and still the authority of the church. And it’s also scary as all get out to go, “Okay. Now, what? I’m out there.”
Kristin: Anyway, that was just one of the most beautiful moments that I have experienced because it is holy, and it’s where I meet with the Lord, but it’s also then where I humbly try to be Ludmilla, to be Christ to whoever comes into the front yard. It’s not always easy; it’s not always fun; but good gracious. It’s real, and it’s raw, and it’s what I’m supposed to be doing.
Jen: That’s right. It’s so good. You’ve got four kids. We’re similar. We’re super, super similar. You’re in high school. One in fifth, right? You’re like wrapping at elementary school. Thank you, Jesus. How did your family deal with this? Because it maybe started small, but it went big, and so how did they feel like, “My mom put a table in our front yard and now it’s a thing.” Were they all in here? Did they have to warm up to the idea?
Kristin: Well now, this is the high-schoolers… the three high-schoolers are very, very clear that I am not allowed to speak anywhere that they’re going to have friends in the audience. I’m not allowed to hashtag them, tag them, or put them on any sort of social media. If I’m showing up for carpool or games, I’m not supposed to wear turquoise. They have rules. They think it’s cool. They use it when they come over with their young life groups or their people. They’re fine to use the turquoise table, but I have to be very cautious of how I project them.
Jen: Of course. It’s interesting, too, to raise your kids in a house of hospitality because it sort of becomes the air they breathe, and they don’t even know it. It works something into their vernacular and into their world view and into their souls and spirits that it becomes hard wired, which I love. My parents lived like this. I think we’ve lost something in our generation from the one before us, but my parents absolutely positively did full-on life with their friends and with their neighbors. I didn’t know that there was any other way to live. I had no idea that there was even an option to close our front door and never open it to anybody else. I also learned this value so early on without even learning it.
Kristin: Right. It’s in your DNA. Of course.
Jen: I just learned it by osmosis. Yeah. That’s just what you do. This is how to live. This is the most fun way to live. It’s the most meaningful way to live. That was how my parents were. Brandon and I have always … This is like key priority in our life is these relationships and being really, deeply embedded in our community. And I think that’s what we end up passing on to our kids when we live like this, and that matters because I think their generation is becoming increasingly fragmented in real ways. Now, they’re connected socially on social media. They’re more connected in some ways, but in this old-fashioned, sit down around the table and break bread way, that’s getting lost.
Kristin: That was my fear.
Jen: That’s a lost art.
Kristin: That was my totally fear.
Jen: Yeah. I know, right?
Kristin: Sarah was born six weeks before the iPhone came out. My children and your children are all digital natives. They will never not know having a screen available at some point in their hands or in their back pockets or wherever the devices are kept. I grew up very similar. We were always in the front yard. I can still name all of our neighbors’ houses. I can still tell you where the pantries were and where they kept the chocolate chip cookies, and my kids weren’t doing that. They were texting emojis back and forth, and I started noticing we’re talking about filters. Yes, we’re connected. We live in the digital age, but statistics show that despite the fact that we are the most connected era in all history, guess what? We’re also the loneliest era in all of history.
Jen: I know.
Kristin: I can’t solve it at the 30,000 feet level because I’m not that smart, but you know what I can do? I can change it at my own table. It’s not either/or. It can’t be at this day and age. We’re too far in with technology, and technology is great, but it has to be both/and, and I want my kids to be able to have conversations and not just go, “Sup,” “Sappenin?” “K.”
Kristin: I’m boggled.
Kristin: They don’t even email anymore. Email is now so archaic, and I’m like, “What do you mean you don’t email?” They’re like, “Eh!” I’m like, “What is ‘Eh?’ ‘Eh’ is not an answer,” and, whatever, we could …
Jen: Absolutely. I know. We have to help our kids reclaim this lost art of conversation with our mouths.
Kristin: Right. Right.
Jen: This is how people talk with their mouths and looking each other in the eyeball. We’re going to have to work hard for this. We’re going to have to win it in our families because it’s just not the culture that they are in. This is not the air they breathe outside of our home. This is the one place where we can put that stake in the ground and say, “This still matters. This is still worth our time and energy, and in this house, this is how we’re going to do it.” I think that that will build something really strong and sturdy into our families.
All this for you, obviously we mentioned it parlayed into a book called, The Turquoise Table: Finding Community and Connection in Your Own Front Yard. What did you think of the writing process? I know you didn’t buy that $100 table and expect to write a book about it.
Kristin: Yeah, I know. Yeah, no.
Jen: Yeah. How did you find that whole process? What did you think of that?
Kristin: It was fun actually, and I maybe the only author alive that says that. Now, that does mean that every minute of it was fun, but I’m on the back side of it. Of course, it was very …
Jen: Totally. It’s always fun when it’s over.
Kristin: It was very fast. I will tell you, and it was not … well, first of all, it’s a very simple book too, and that was also deliberate. We figured that if a woman doesn’t have time to figure out how to get to the table and invite people over and she’s already stressed out, she’s not going to have time to read a 500-page memoir about some woman with a turquoise table, right?
Jen: That’s right.
Kristin: It was super important to me that this was very visual, very simple and really just about a table. It looks and feels like you were sitting in a table having a 15 or 20 minute conversation.
Jen: Yeah. It’s beautiful.
Kristin: That was really important. It wrote itself. Of course, it was hard. I’d never done that before, but it was very fast. I think I turned in the final manuscript in September, and it was out in June. For me, it happened really like a whiplash, which is good because I have such ADD that if it had lingered on, I might not have finished it.
Jen: Totally. I actually do know. Yes. Now at this point, I wish my processes were shrunken up. They’re so drawn out now that I’m like, “Oh my gosh. Who’s going to put my foot on the gas for this much longer?” It’s interesting because the book went out and the story went with it and so now, because it just created such curiosity and interest–obviously, like we’ve talked about–these tables are everywhere like you mentioned. They’re absolutely everywhere. There’s one in front of an HEB. That’s our grocery store, listeners. There is like this grocery store of our state called HEB. There’s one at the HEB here in Austin. Where are some of those craziest places you’ve seen these tables pop up or most interesting or most surprising or whatever?
Kristin: Okay. Well, the airport has one now. The south terminal of the airport, which is hilarious. And one of my favorite ones locally is at Austin Community College, which is one of our largest employers and schools here, but it’s also not a residential college. The faculty and the administration were thinking, “It’s really hard for students who don’t live on campus–it’s a commuter college–to really get to know one another.” They have put turquoise tables in their student life groups or in their student life areas, and I’ve gone out and spoken with them and encouraged them and given them tips on how to use that, and I love that. I love that it’s at the Austin Community College. There’s one at the Ronald McDonald house, at our area hospitals, and all across America. People are the most creative ever, like ever.
Farmers’ markets, and schools, and parks, and a couple of museums have them in there. Every day, it feels like I get an email, and I’m like, “I didn’t see that one coming. I really could not have seen that coming.” And again, not everyone has a front yard. We don’t all live in the same kind of abode, and so there’s so much freedom in that. I always say, “Well then, where do you naturally tend to gather?” That’s where farmers’ markets and atriums and courtyards have all come up… and apartment complexes. People are putting them near the pools or near the laundry facilities where people are coming and going, and it’s overwhelming, truly, to just see the creativeness of how people inherently love so much where they live that they’re making it work for their particular area.
Is that not just the way it’s supposed to be? Because what works in Minnesota clearly is not going to work in Austin, Texas. It’s already snowing in Colorado and Minnesota, and we’re still in shorts. I love the freedom that people have grasped onto this to make it work where they live. And there’s ownership, and there’s excitement, and there’s passion. And there’s nothing better than getting the email–or when I’m speaking–and seeing people’s eyes light up, and it’s this “Aha” moment like, “Wow! I can’t do this. There is hope for us to meet one another and take baby steps towards really creating the community that we all are craving.”
Jen: I love that. I’d love for you to take that one step further. Let’s say that somebody’s listening, and she lives in an apartment or in a rental or in a super urban area, or just in a place where the table itself is not an option, what could be her version of neighboring? Where would she start? What would you suggest to her to create this similar culture if she can’t fit this exact picnic table niche?
Kristin: Well, this is something that we talk about all the time, and I love it because usually what happens is whoever we’re talking or brainstorming with answers their own question. I would ask, first of all, “Tell me a little bit more. Tell me a little bit more about where you live?” Let’s say, hypothetically, it’s an apartment complex, and she knows no one. “I don’t know anybody in my apartment complex, and it’s hard to meet people. I see people coming and going, but I work really late shifts. I’m a nurse, and so I’m not on the same schedule.” Okay. Then, I think, “Well then, where’s the most likely place you could bump into somebody? Is it the elevator? Could you go hang out and do laundry all day? What is it that you need to be doing or where people would naturally gather and just start going there.” They’re like, “But that’s so simple. It’s so simple.” I’m like, “Right?” What we’re trying to do first is notice. We want to notice where people are in your neighborhood. We want to notice where people are naturally gathering.
Then, I will say, “If you can, get a buddy. Talk about this with somebody else because it’s so much easier to come up with ideas bouncing them off someone else.” Even if that person doesn’t live in the same apartment complex, it could be your old mate from across the country. At least just say, “Hey, I want to get to know my neighbors. I want to build community. I don’t know how, but I’m going to start noticing. I’m going to start writing down names or patterns of things, not in a stalker way, but… I know there’s some women, three women who are about my age who live on floor three or whatever. The first thing is just to start noticing. Just notice where people are, and then, it’s almost like … it’s not rocket science. Then, it’s like, “Okay. Well then, you bumped into somebody.” Then you’re like, “Hey, I live out …” It always works. It just always works.
The table, if it’s not the catalyst to bring people together, then it can be an afterthought. People are getting turquoise table cloths, and they’re having little gatherings in these places. You don’t have to have a turquoise table. That’s just the symbol. That’s the talisman for what it is we are all trying to do, and that’s just simply show up and start hanging out. It’s always hard to take that first next, but once you do, it’s just like when Susan showed up. She just walked by and there was nothing planned, and it works. It really does.
Jen: Yeah. Yeah. That’s just so great. I like this so much, specifically for this series because this is our New Year’s series, and this is just that time when a lot of us are evaluating, and we’re thinking: “What do I want to do differently this year?” Where do I want my life to have more depth or more meaning? Where do I want it to be fuller or richer or more connected?” The older I get, those are my goals. My goals, once upon a time, they looked like career goals or achievement goals, but the older I get, I’m like, “How can I be more connected? How can I feel more grounded? How can things feel more meaningful and sacred?” This is a way. This is really a way, and this is worth our energy. It’s worth our effort. You know what? Honestly, if only selfishly. If that’s the only reason someone says, “You know what? I don’t really know if this is going to work, but I want some friends, and so I’m going to give this a try.”
Okay. Jump in. I think you have to imagine it’s not just meaningful for your neighbors and the people that you’re inviting in but for you, for your family, for your own home, and your own soul, it’s so good.
Kristin: It is so good.
Jen: This is just good stuff.
Kristin: There’s nothing wrong with saying that too. How many people go away on a mission trip, and they come back and they’re like, “Oh my goodness. I went over thinking I was serving, and I came back, and I was the one that was so refreshed, so recharged, so on fire.” This is my mission field. It’s the front yard. When you go out and you serve and you love, you receive back ten-fold. And it’s interesting because I think the biggest fear is time and how? But when we just get over ourselves long enough to say, “Okay. I’m just going to go out there. I don’t care what anybody thinks.” Once that hurdle is over, it’s like time is multiplied. Relationships fill cups. I just want to be like, “Just do it. Just do it. Just do it.” Then again, I’m the one that put a turquoise table in my front yard. Of course, I’m like, “Just do it.” You know what I mean?
Jen: Totally. You’re here for it.
Kristin: I was like, “Well, don’t overthink it. Just don’t overthink it. Just show up and do it.”
Jen: Yeah. It’s so great, Kristin. Oh, it’s so great.
So listen, we’re going to wrap this up. These are three questions we are asking every guest in this series, in the “New Year, New Beginnings” series. Just off top of your head. They can be serious or funny, whatever you want. All right. A lot of people do New Year’s resolutions. What’s one that you might like to lay down that you think, “This one, I’m probably going to keep.” What’s one that you might put out into the world, and you know, “I am not going to keep it.”
Kristin: Oh, hands down. I am not going to lose 20 pounds this year. Totally.
Kristin: I did, too.
Jen: I say it every year.
Kristin: You know what else? I’m going to up it. I’m going to see that 20 pounds, and I’m going to just say, “I’m also not going to rejoin the membership of the gym where I always say that I’m going to do it and then by March… ”
Kristin: Yeah. That’s a hands down no brainer. Laying it down.
Jen: We’re just going to lay it down.
Jen: You know what we need to also lay down along with that 20-pound goal? I continue to hang on to my jeans that were 20 pounds ago. Why? Why? Why are they there? They’re just mocking me.
Kristin: I did that. Yeah. Mine are gone. Because really ..ain’t nobody got time for that.
Jen: It’s fine. Plus, there’s a certain level of shame about going into the gym on January 2nd when the gym is as crowded as it’s ever been in the calendar year.
Kristin: When you’re in the parking lot, and it is the walk of shame. It’s like, “Okay. Here I am again.” Everybody knows it’s only going to last four days. It’s like, “I don’t even know why I’m going to this place.
Jen: We’ll see her for three weeks and then not again until next January 2nd. How about this? If you can recommend one resolution to our audience, even just one tiny first step to becoming a better friend, a better neighbor, a better community member in 2018, what would it be?
Kristin: Listen. Learn to listen, practice listening. Listen. That has been my biggest lesson at The Turquoise Table is there’s always a time to speak, but I believe that love begins with a listening ear.
Jen: Girl, I want that on a t-shirt. Could you tell the whole world that? If there’s a way that you could just make sure everybody hears that message, I think it could change our culture now.
Last one. This is a question we ask everybody. It was a posed by Barbara Brown Taylor, and she asks, “What is saving your life right now?”
Kristin: Shipt–the grocery delivery service. How spiritual is that? Coming from Barbara Brown Taylor.
Jen: Yes. No. No.I had the owner of Shipt on the podcast.
Kristin: Let me just tell you. Now, the beauty of it is, I have the same Shipt delivery. If people don’t know what Shipt is, it is the grocery delivery service. And every Sunday, I go in, and I order all of my things. I plan out my meals. I do whatever, and then they come, and they deliver it. And now, they come into the house, and I know them by name, and it is life changing. Then, people are always like, “Isn’t it really expensive?” I’m like, “Well, no. Because there’s no more impulse buys.” I’m not standing there going, “Oh, I’m going to make this,” and then it rots because I never get around to making something.
Kristin: That is hands down. Shipt. Yeah.
Jen: Girl, I’m waving my hanky. Grocery delivery changed my life. I am absolutely with you on that. Listen, thank you for being on today, and I’m serious. Thank you for being who you are. Thank you for the way God made you. I love how you’re knit together, and I love The Turquoise Table. And I think you have put something out into our culture that is so special and so needed and so sacred, and it’s just a joy. I’m so thrilled for everybody that now gets to know you and meet you [and read your book and put their own turquoise tables in their front yard. Thank you for everything today.
Kristin: Well, thank you for having me at your table. It just means the world. Thank you.
Jen: So I literally cannot wait to hear how many of you guys put a turquoise table in your front yard after this. I’m serious– I told Kristin when we hopped up off the call. I’m telling you this is going to mean some turquoise tables and a lot of yards. And I’m thrilled about it. I’m just thrilled about it.
There’s our train. As you know, the train is part of the For The Love podcast. So if you’re new here, just make your peace with the train because it’s in every single episode.
So, listen you guys–thanks for listening. This series is really fun. We’ve got more amazing guests lined up for you with For the Love of New Beginnings and it’s kind of all over the map too. It’s not just one note here–I’m really just thinking about; how do we live a meaningful life this year? So, thanks for listening. It’s just it’s just been the most most fun series.
Thank you for your reviews. Thank you for your ratings and all the things that matter to our podcasts. Every one of those matters. So when you take three minutes to write a review, thank you, because it matters. Plus…we’re listening. We’re paying attention. We’ve gotten some really great ideas from you. Things that you’re interested in or guests that you’d love to hear from. We comb through all of those and pick out those super ideas, so we really appreciate your feedback.
I can’t wait to see you next week. Thanks for joining us for the show and have a good one. Just a reminder, everything we talked about today is over on the transcript on my website. So all the links to Kristin’s book, a link to the paint color, I’ll have a link to the to the table–everything we talked about you–you can find over on my website jenhatmaker.com. I’ll see you next week!
Narrator: Thanks for joining us today on the For the Love Podcast. Tune in next week, when we sit down again with Jen and friends to chat about all the things we love.
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