For most women, life seems like an endless cycle of commitments and unforgiving deadlines that we race to meet. At the end of any given day (or week) we find ourselves depleted despite our best intentions to give more. Wrangling our families or friends around the table for a shared meal becomes a logistical feat. Gathering with those beyond our four walls is a pleasant pipe dream. In The Turquoise Table, Kristin Schell shares her journey of creating connection in her community. As she sought the Lord’s leading, Romans 12:13 replayed in her head: “Take every opportunity to open your life and home to others.” She pleaded with God to show her how to open her life to love her neighbors.

It was then that God showed her the example of Ludmilla, an elderly widow living in Prague. “She’s survived two totalitarian regimes and lives in the heart of the most atheistic country in Europe. Yet she placed a small bronze plaque on the outside of her tiny brownstone apartment that reads ‘Embassy of the Kingdom of Heaven.’ Every day Ludmilla opens her home to friends and strangers who need to talk…Sometimes she offers them something small, nothing overdone or extravagant. Tea. A cookie from a tin. A warm, simple gesture of welcome to her table. In a way that is quiet and genuine, Ludmilla listens and prays, and in doing so communicates that her guests matter. At her table they belong…Fully present, Ludmilla serves more than just cookies and tea. She offers her heart.”

After learning of Ludmilla’s ministry, Kristin Schell recognized that she, like many of us, had confused entertainment with hospitality. One requires a perfectly cleaned house, manicured lawn and prepared meal. The other requires only our presence. And so what would eventually become an international movement was born. By simply painting a picnic table a bright color and placing it in her front yard near the street, Kristin was present. She met neighbors passing by. Women began to gather to process their days. Kids played. Grief and celebration were shared. Community was built. Before long, others began placing a turquoise table in their yards, and so on and so on. It’s about inviting people to show up with their brokenness and providing a safe space in which to be. In quoting John O’Donohue from To Bless the Space Between Us, a blessing for the turquoise table is adopted: “May you have the eyes to see that no visitor arrives without a gift and no guest leaves without a blessing.”

In addition to wisdom on the true meaning of hospitality, this book includes delicious recipes that have been shared at her table, and checklists to assist readers in beginning their own ministry of connection. If you’ve ever stressed about hosting a gathering, this book is for you. It will revolutionize your concept of how to truly honor your guests: Forget the stress of a thousand details screaming for perfection and simply be present. It doesn’t require a picnic table painted turquoise. A chair for you and your yet to be identified guest is sufficient. Along with a heart to be present, listen and pray.