The Parent Blog


The Picnic Table in My Front Yard

Erin Blaize is a children’s ministry volunteer, teacher, wife, mom, and child of God. She is done with adding more to her plate, but invites you to join her at the picnic table.

Six months ago, I first heard about the Turquoise Table after listening to author Kristin Schell on one of my favourite podcasts. I remember listening to her speak about this picnic table she had accidentally placed in her front yard and it grew into this huge movement of other people putting picnic tables in their front yards and building connections locally. I remember thinking, I love this, but my front yard is too small, and I am just not that person. I filed it away for a great feel good podcast about how God can do big things with us, even when we are unaware of his plans.

If I can speak to my own experience, by nature I had always been a backyard person. Oh, I always thought I could “do community,” but really when it comes down to it, I needed a place to retreat, a sanctuary of sorts, a place where I could just be alone or with my family. I will say, listening to the idea of becoming a front yard person was a bit daunting. We bought our first home in 2017 on a quiet street in a residential neighbourhood. Everyone seemed nice enough, I had come to know a few neighbours nearly a year later, not names really, but I could smile and say, “Hello.” Why go further? My kids played a bit with other kids on the street, but not a lot or regularly. I also felt who wants to be bothered really getting to know us; people are busy and have their own lives going on, I don’t want to impose.

A few months passed, and I heard about Kristin Schell again (usually a Holy Spirit nudge I need to have a second look at things) and revisited the idea in my mind. Hmmm, okay this lady put a picnic table in her front yard and it became a movement. Okay, Jesus, what are you up to?

I listened to the same podcast again. It hit something deep in my heart. Picnic table, front yard, okay. I felt adequately nudged. There was something Jesus wanted to do in or through me. I mentioned it to my husband.

Me: “Honey, I would love to get a picnic table.”

Him: “Oh okay, that’s cool, I like picnic tables.”

Me: “Yes, they are cool. I would like to put it in our front yard.”

Him: Pause. Silence. Throat clearing. “Ah okay, I don’t know about that one.”

Fast forward several weeks and many conversations, on Mother’s Day, my gift of one unassembled picnic table arrived in my front yard. We put it together (well my husband did that part, because he is handy, I am not, and it was my present). I looked at it all together and with a nervous knot in my stomach, wondered what exactly I had gotten myself into. I said it looked great but inside, I was panicking that my neighbours would label it tacky and wonder what had gotten into us, but I had no idea what was in store for that table or for us.

After getting a very positive reaction from my next-door neighbour who borders my front lawn, and positive reactions from other people, many whom I had never seen before, my mind began to relax a little. We also have made an effort to just be present in our front yard at the table several times a week. I cannot tell you how many new people we are meeting and the details we have begun to learn about our community. I started bringing snacks outside, recipes began to be exchanged, details about lives. I met one older neighbour who is widowed and looking to connect with others in her area. My neighbour across the street went through open heart surgery and we were able to bring muffins over and help his wife with a few odds and ends while he was in the hospital.

We met a couple up the road who we feel we have known for years. Our kids are similar ages and we eat dinner together unplanned at least once a week and share our life experiences. We took part in a street-wide yard sale, while our kids decided to make a lemonade and baked goods stand to raise money for Raw Hope through World Vision. Our other neighbours who aren’t familiar with World Vision wanted to get involved too.

On her podcast, Kristin Schell was telling the story of becoming a front yard person and I think what really resonated with me was when she 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, is I was going wide, but I wasn’t going deep. I was surface level-loving everybody…and I don’t know, it just started to feel like I was skimming the surface.”

I felt the same way–involved with so many different people, communities and groups, and not developing deeper connections with people, feeling unable to add just one more night out in the week. I think the most unexpected surprise I have learned through this experience, is the gift the table has been for me. Becoming a front yard person has allowed a community to surround me too, as I am there for others.


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