Back in 2014, I learned about a sweet college friend, Sarah Harmeyer, who began a mission to love others well by simply inviting them to share a meal around her table. After chasing her career and feeling somewhat underwhelmed, Sarah eventually founded Neighbor’s Table: A Love Mission. Her focused shifted from “all things her” to “all things others.” Celebrating and loving her neighbors made her come alive! I heard Sarah speak at a conference and share the story of meeting her goal to gather 500 people around her table, in ONLY one year! My heart leapt! She shared about inviting her friends, her neighbors and even people off the streets to join her in a meal around a large, cedar-style farmhouse table her dad skillfully constructed for her backyard. That was 2012. To date, Sarah has served over 2500 neighbors around her table!
I don’t believe it was any coincidence the Lord stirred my heart around this same time to move home to Louisiana. I searched high and low for the perfect house. One of the requirements for my selection was that it needed to have an AMAZING outdoor space! From the moment I heard Sarah speak about her table, I felt the Lord calling me to do the same. For years, like Sarah, I was too busy to focus on my neighbors. I’m ashamed to say, that in some places I’ve lived, I never even met my neighbors. Unfortunately, I’m sure this rings truer than I’m aware for many of you. We aren’t called to work, pay bills and die. We are called to love and commune. It was in that season, I began a conscious effort to change my life’s philosophy. Like Sarah, I began to focus less on me and more on others.
Part of the draw to the cottage was the absolutely incredible backyard! Surrounded on three sides by a beautiful scalloped brick fence, it is the ideal backyard setting for gathering friends, neighbors and other divine appointments the Lord will place in my path. Not too big, not too small, the intimate, shady space is a perfect place to build community!
But, one thing was missing. The cottage is flanked with a glorious front porch, made for rocking and sweet tea. But what lacked was a rocking porch on the backside. As I began to plan for the renovation, I knew adding a back porch was a must! I could envision lazy Sunday afternoons, reading in a bed swing and sipping lemonade. I could see people laughing and communing under a haint blue porch ceiling. I could envision a Neighbor’s Table sitting just under the large oak tree.
Before, the back of the cottage was flat and unimpressive. Now, thanks to the amazing craftsmanship of Bolin Construction Company, there is an expansive back porch roughly 28 feet long and 10 feet wide. The columns were carefully constructed to be exact replicas of the columns supporting the front porch and true to the period the cottage was built. The brick work framing the porch also matches the brick work in the front. Part of the new, “old” bricks came from a neighbor a few blocks away, and others came from an old school house. The back porch truly looks like it’s been there the entire 91 years the cottage has stood!
Sarah’s love mission began with a goal to feed 500 around her table. Now, she has delivered numerous Neighbor’s Tables all across the country where thousands are gathering and communing over a meal. Bridges are being built. Walls are coming down. And neighbors, friends and even strangers are benefiting from the value of community.
In just a few short months, Sarah will deliver my Neighbor’s Table to the Simply Southern Cottage. The porches and the backyard will soon be filled with laughter and love. Hope to see some of you around my table! I’ve created a space for community, especially with you in mind.
(This post first appeared in the July/August 2017 issue of The Minute Magazine. It can be viewed here: https://issuu.com/theminutemagazine/docs/the_minute_magazine_july_august_201/8)/
It would be incredibly fun to hear some things YOU do to create community in your home and/or outdoor space! I’d love for you to share your tips in the comments below. (Oh and if you have an amazing recipe perfectly suited for an afternoon picnic, it would SO thrill me if you would graciously pass it along!)