Born and raised in Arkansas, I’m as Southern as a girl can get. If my two sisters and I weren’t at school, we were at church, and if we weren’t at church, we were sitting around the table eating together. The table — it’s where I grew up, the place where I laughed, cried, shared exciting news (and not so exciting news), debated with my sisters, and opened my heart to Jesus. I didn’t realize how much that table meant to me until I moved away.
At age twenty-four, I moved to Birmingham, Alabama. For the first time in my life, I lived alone and worked long hours, leaving little time for community and friendships. Lonely and depressed, I thought my life was incomplete because I was single. I threw myself at dating apps and constantly felt discouraged. After weeks of hearing me complain about my terrible life, my mom offered me the best advice I’ve ever received: “God calls us to serve people. Why don’t you cook a meal and invite people over?” And then she finished with a phrase that she has repeated over the years to my sisters and me: “Be a blessing.”
After rolling my eyes and grumbling for longer than I would like to admit, I took my mother’s advice. I cracked open a cookbook and hosted dinner for friends for the first time in my adult life. The four of us squeezed around a table for two — and had the best time. I will always remember that night because I made four-cheese tortellini. It was terrible. But that night God taught me something important: I was lonely, not because I was single, but because I had not been investing in and nurturing a community in my life.
That night Jesus ignited in me a desire for community, a realization of the importance of the table, and a curiosity for the art of hospitality. Fast-forward seven years and here we are.
After four years of cooking for friends and hosting dinner parties every week (around my very small apartment table), I decided to share my love of hospitality with the world and launched my blog, A Table Top Affair. I also started posting my recipes and party ideas on Pinterest and Instagram. I wanted to encourage people who were stuck in a rut, people who didn’t know how to meet others or how to cultivate their own community. So I began trying to put a formula to it — a formula for empowering people to overcome their insecurities in the kitchen and to truly invest in opening their homes even though they might not have the picture-perfect family.
It took me being single and lonely to see that God had big plans for me around my kitchen table. If I wasn’t single or had put off embracing hospitality until I had a husband and 2.5 kids, I would have missed all the memories, relationships, and conversations about Jesus around that table.
At some deep level, I believe we are drawn to the table. When Jesus said, “I am the bread of life,” I believe He literally meant for us to bring people to the table and serve them and to let Him do the rest. When we set the table and prepare a meal, there is something supernatural that happens to our hearts. It’s undeniable!
Throughout my book, The Living Table, it is my hope that you will be inspired to clean off your table and prepare to serve others. In fact, I have an easy go-to handbook that is full of tips on how to be prepared to serve. Trust me, I know life gets overwhelming and busy, but God longs for us to release all our pressures to Him. He wants us to live peaceful lives — lives that are full of joy and fellowship.
No matter what phase of life you are in (single, married, mom with littles, empty nester, or recently retired), loneliness can overwhelm any one of us. It’s our community that encourages us through the ups and downs of our lives, and through these interactions we get to experience the joy of God’s goodness. So, what do you think? Is God calling you to dust off your table and open your door? If so, why not follow His lead? After all, He will be with you throughout the process, giving you everything you need.
My prayer is that the joy of hospitality that permeates the pages of this book will begin to infect your life.
In The Living Table: Recipes and Devotions for Everyday Get-Togethers, Abby Turner shares easy-to-recreate recipes and fun DIY projects that take fifteen minutes or less. Each section starts with a first-hand account of the miraculous ways God has showed up at Abby’s table — how deep conversations have led to deep spiritual growth, how a new friend has become a forever friend, and how tears and laughs and mishaps have become treasured memories. With each section focusing on specific tables (dinner table, coffee table, outside table, etc.), you’ll discover fast and easy ways to liven up any moment, whether that be Tuesday night home with family or a well-thought-out Thanksgiving.
God is asking each of us to open our homes and prepare our tables, and The Living Table devotional cookbook equips the most intimidated hostess. Hosting isn’t about being perfect; it’s about offering care to one another and building community.
To celebrate this beautiful new book, we are giving away FIVE copies of The Living Table!*
To enter, tell us in the comments how you cultivate community right where you are, and we’ll choose five lucky winners!
Then tune in tomorrow, May 26th, at 11:00 am CST on Facebook for a conversation with Abby Turner and Becky Keife as they discuss The Living Table.
Krista Wolters says
I live in Georgia, and I love walking through my small neighborhood and talking with my neighbors who are out and about. We catch up on each other’s lives and can help and encourage one another. I also like supporting and frequenting small businesses in my community and encouraging the owners. A few months ago an F4 tornado devastated a nearby town, so there have been opportunities for me and my family to help with clean up and fundraising for our neighboring community. At church I like to look for new faces and make connections. I just look for a need and try to find ways to meet it. It really is more blessed to give than receive!
I would love to win a “The Living Table” book! I realize that it has been too long since I have opened my home for sharing a meal with friends and family. I will make that happen soon! Thanks for the reminder that hospitality doesn’t mean having everything perfect, but enjoying each other’s company and letting Jesus meet with us.
In my neighborhood, we cultivate community by hosting events for the neighbors at our home. We also play with the neighborhood children and do “crafts” on the front pouch with them. At holidays and special days we take gifts to the children. It is a blessing to be in our diverse neighborhood cultivating community. Sometimes we take food or desserts to bless them. On April 30 a tree fell on our house and did a lot of damage. A few days later, our neighborhood came to help us do some things that needed to be done. It was a beautiful sight and a true blessing from God!
My family and I just moved to North Carolina and we don’t know anyone! I am not going to let that hinder me though, from letting the Holy Spirit lead me to those individuals that he wants me to show His love to. Each day I ask God to show me or connect me to new friends or neighbors to build a new community. Whether I am at the park with my kids or walking out neighborhood, I am praying for God to help us make new connections so that I may open up our home and show love to our new community. Also, taking this time to perfect my sourdough loaf so that we have fresh bread to share
There is nothing more energizing & rewarding to me than opening my door and inviting family, friends, neighbors new and old in for a home cooked delicious meal and good conversation around our family table. God bless this this table and the people around it!
Gail Mattox says
I am retired, widow, and former First Lady or pastor wife. My pastor husband die June 16, 2017. I had to downsize from a spacious house to a 1 bedroom apartment. I would love to have a copy of your book. To go back into be blessing and serving others again.
Ruth Mills says
Amen! Can’t wait to be able to gift your book to friends that want to but hesitate to host. It isn’t about the elaborate menu but about the time spent with others! Thank you for putting your personal lesson to use both at your small table but in guidelines for others!
Melissa Spencer says
My husband and I walk around our neighborhood almost every day. Every time we see someone, we greet them. We even started waving at cars that pass by. We greet the small dog club. I love on their dogs if possible. I hand out compliments for beautiful yards and gardens. We have gotten to know our neighbors better. Now, some of us carpool to the local farmer’s market weekly. We give our neighbors fresh garden vegetables, fresh baked bread and eggs if we have an abundance. We have hosted an ice cream sundae party in our back yard. We also love having people over to sit around the fire pit. You never know when you are going to meet a lifelong friend. You have to start somewhere.
Kim Wags says
I have always wanted to feel more comfortable having people over. I have a wonderful group of gals I do Bible Study with and would love to have them over for more than just snacks. This book could be just the guide I need!!
Lisa Brouwer says
Our kitchen table is a catalyst. New jobs. Deciding to start a family. Choosing to quit my job and be an entrepreneur. Deepening relationships. We host friends and family on a regular basis. Sharing a meal around the table is community and a way we’re going to move through the loneliness we’ve experienced this last year.
I am a community builder of women who want to do brave things. We take deep dives in small groups (virtually and in person) and I just hosted my first in person conference since 2019. It feels so good to get back together! #BraverTogether
Jenna Schroeder says
I love the story and beauty behind this idea, book and God’s heart for community. To cultivate connection we have been inviting a family over once a month for dinner. We enjoy serving, the conversations and the kids getting to know each other. Covid has been hard for relationship so we created an outdoor space where we can love another family through time together, dinner and backyard fun.
I am a 60+ single lady with a small home – I have invited people in some but it’s so easy to let time slip by and forget to be regular about inviting people. I’m not much a a cook and that intimidates me, more than it should, probably! I’d love to win a copy of this book!
Marta Jackson says
You are so speaking my language. Community! I recently moved into a 55+ neighborhood. There seems to be so many single, widowed women that spend most of their time inside their home alone. I need to get better about welcoming them into my home. But I have started a weekly gathering on our driveway for our street so we can come together. And another gal and I are starting a monthly ladies lunch outing.
Thanks for inspiring me this morning!
Erin W says
I started a small life group of women through our church and couldn’t be more grateful for it.
Barbara Goodman says
Hello my name is Barbara Goodman. I welcome new neighbors
To our community With a little gift and host neighbors. I bake for our
Community events and
Encourage get together
And community involvement.
Barbara Goodman says
. I welcome new neighbors
To our community With a little gift and host neighbors. I bake for our
Community events and
Encourage get together
And community involvement.
I love hosting family and friends in my home for meals. When my husbands grandma was 95 I started a time of inviting his family to the house once a month to eat, laugh, talk, play dominos(his grandma’s favorite game). We had the best time! We did this for 4 years until his grandma passed away. I think it is time to start it back up. Life gets us so disconnected with each other and with covid we have missed those interactions.
I also need to start scheduling times to have friends come and eat as well. We need each other and those relationships we build when we can spend time together.
Connie Brown says
I long to open my home to friends and neighbors. I recently retired and have been working on decluttering my long-neglected home so that I can begin using it the way God intends. My only outlet for hospitality creativity has been at church where I do my best to make a welcoming and delicious coffee service where people will gather and enjoy each other’s company. After over a year of forced isolation, I am ready to get busy doing what I can to build community in my neighborhood. I’m excited to read your book for lots of ideas about bringing Jesus into these interactions.
Abby, this book sounds wonderful! We can begin opening our homes to vaccinated people and there are outdoor options for gatherings, too. I can’t wait to dive into your book for ideas!
I love having people over for meals and board games or worship around a bonfire as often as possible!
Dawn Camp says
Abby, we seem to have a lot in common! I’m also from Arkansas (but live in Georgia now). It was my grandmother and great aunts who were the cooks, instead of my mother. The Waze app used to remind me not to forget my kids in the car when I arrived at my destination (I no longer have small children), so I reprogrammed it to say, “Be a blessing.” (I later found out my children thought Waze told everyone to be a blessing when they reached their destination.)
When I hosted book club at my house last month, I was so excited to see you have a book club chapter in The Living Table! I made the Chicken Salad Bowls and Hibiscus Spritzer. We’ve made the Biscuit Tacos a couple of times too. I can’t wait to discover more new favorites in this cook book!
Barbara K Rothman says
I live in CA in a rural area. We love having people over & sharing a meal, stories & blessing our friends & family!!! When our married children come home & stay with us I always put little gifts on their beds!!! It’s really funny because even with my daughter’s dog I’ll have a treat in his bowl. When we open our door he runs full speed to his little bowl!!! He’s the cutest little Shitsu-Yorkie, 6 lbs of love!
We enjoy inviting our church family over also & getting to know them better. We’ve developed so many close friends by doing this. I had started a party of 6 with our church & that has really blessed & developed into many close friendships.
Lord bless you on your book & may it be a blessing & stepping stone for many to enjoy hosting meals at home!
Cindy Clayton says
I love this idea. Especially now that I am in a season of rebuilding after a divorce and moving from my home of many years. Here’s my problem though, I don’t actually HAVE a table anymore. I have a very small home without a dining area and I opted not to have a designated eating area. I would love suggestions on how to gather around the table without a table!
Throw a blanket on the floor and have a indoor picnic.
I help build community through a women’s Bible study. At home I am not comfortable with hosting people as I’ve not had great success in the past, So I am afraid to try
I grew up in a family that embodied table dinners, community and conversations about Jesus. I still have great memories and admiration for my parents because of this. Sadly for various reasons I have not followed in their footsteps. This devotion encouraged my heart to make more of an effort and look for ways to make it happen. I pray for opportunities to not only invite people I already know but to also get to know others by sharing my table.
Kristin Bush says
I’ve cultivated community through an online one. We FaceTime and zoom. We talk and text daily. We’ve endeavored to do life together even as well as live in different states.
Until I moved to a small apartment, I had monthly dinners to offer hospitality. I am inspired to offer hospitality again, on a much smaller scale but hospitality nonetheless. Thank u
Kristen Kammer-Hattox says
This book looks wonderful! I try to cherish the moments of each day through creating connections of those around me. My kids are young and our days can be chaotic. So we try to slow down and savor. Abide is my word for the year. And, you are right – there are so many ways to do this…over a meal, a coffee, snacks, etc. Thank you for the reminder~
Since my divorce and move to Tennessee, I feel like I have really turned inward to avoid being hurt again, but it has done the opposite. I have noticed a longing for community. Recently, a group at work asked me to do things with them and it may seem small, but I am learning to say yes again. Last night, someone invited me to go to a game. It was so out of my comfort zone, but I learned that I enjoyed going. I am taking small steps to have fun again and learn that life can be fun again! This is a very timely reminder for me.
I want to have people in my home. I am a recovering perfectionist and instead of opening my home imperfectly, I wait until I feel like things are perfect. And they never are or will be. I would love to win a copy of your book and start opening my home to others. I am an empty nester and sometimes it feels easier to hide and only show up for others at church or in social settings outside my home. I want to do better!
Lisa H. says
We’ve just moved to a new house in an actual neighborhood. I’d love to get to know our neighbors. I want our home to be hospitable. I want to welcome others. But how do you practice hospitality when you’re married to an introvert whose job has him “on” all day, and who just wants to keep to himself in his own space when he’s home? Home is his comfort zone, and he struggles with wanting to open it up to others. But I get that it’s hard to let people in. As another commenter said, sometimes it feels so much easier to show up for “planned” activities that are structured, that have a beginning and an end.
Kids in the pool. Adults on the top step. Laughing. Learning. Living together.
Carrie Warner says
I am a mom of 5 kids and try to cultivate community in our own home through sitting down together for supper as often as we can, reading books and listening to music together, and going on family outings. My husband and I are also very involved in the Christian school where he is administrator and I teach part-time, and one of our favorite things to do is to lead a community Vocal Ensemble, a mix of current students and alumni/friends. There is always room for more community to grow but I’m grateful for the ways God has given us to cultivate community and pray He will keep our eyes open to seeing new opportunities, whether big or small.
So many happy memories around my parents dining room table. Talking, laughing, and sharing so much all centered around food so lovingly prepared by my Mom and family. That dining room is over 65 years old and now great grandchildren sit and share stories. The one thing that has always stayed the same is the love of our family.
Cheryl Stahl says
The Lord has been speaking to me a lot lately about hospitality. I love the idea of this book! I am hoping to have a block picnic this summer to get to know our new neighbors.
Amanda McNeil says
I live in Pennsylvania and have been wanting this book. I love cooking and hosting, though I haven’t been doing much of either -unless you count heating chicken nuggets as “cooking.” Full-time working momma with 2 wonder children and a side business. I am building a community of friends and customers in my Facebook group where I share daily scripture and games. Trying to build up a community of women focused and encouraged by Gods word.
I really love your article about living table. It is the place all our family members gathered, preparing meal one after another, talking, sharing,laughing together, occasionally arguing, any topics from food, clothing, celebrities, religion, economic,politics issues, etc.. Day starts with living table as well ends at living table when we do our daily family altar prayer. I thank God for the living table as it joints all our hearts together.. Thank you Jesus, Forever I love you. ❤️
Beth Williams says
God made us for community. We weren’t meant to do this life alone. Sometimes that means stepping out of your comfort zone & going first. You be the one to say hi or go to the new church, etc. Making friends is hard, but rewarding. There is no better way than to do it over food. People-women especially- love to sit, eat & chat about life. Before Covid I had a group of 4-5 women=ex coworkers- that would meet in a restaurant once a month & do life together. We would share our ups, downs & pray for each other. Your mom had great advice. Be a blessing to others & you will find community.
Community has been a reoccurring theme… especially in light of the pandemic closure and reopening… it provides an opportunity to reconnect around our tables… to “be a blessing “
Meghan Culverson says
To cultivate community, I try and host a bonfire, dinner, or movie night as often as I can. Most of the time, these are with my family or best friends from high school, and we catch up fully, like we had never been apart. My favorite thing to do is to have everyone bring their favorite drink, dish, or snack to share. And then we talk about why it’s our favorite. It brings everyone closer and probably brings up some fun stories from our past, but it also brings new and exciting ideas to the group. I love organizing my house and yard for people to come together, and each time, the house looks a little bit different. But I also welcome the random drive-bys to say hello or the facetimes where my house is a mess. I welcome my loved ones to see how our house is in real time, in the mess of everyday life and the way it looks when it’s been lived in. I want them to be able to embrace me – the organizer, the planner, the host, but most of all, the one who doesn’t have it put together 100% of the time.
Donna Visone says
Cant wait to get my copy of this beautiful book!
My 20 month old is the one who’s helping me cultivate community. He waves and stops to “talk” to neighbors.
Messy play dates! Unshowered, crumbs on the floor, and toys all over the living room floor!
Sharon Gakin says
My lifelong love of hospitality with my husband, 4 kids and 5 acres changed in 2017 when I was widowed and moved to a suburb. Alone, I tackled a long held dream of providing women with a place to get away from the distractions and pressures of motherhood and life. I started physically hacking Rosewood Day Retreat out of a “secret garden”, overgrown with brush and blackberries, stumps and roots. Simultaneously, I renewed house concerts as an outreach, using musicians friends and gourmet food. I’ve joined my church’s ministry of serving our Body’s needs for food, prayer, whatever. My happiest times come with all my guest beds filled as well as my breakfast nook. Come August 22nd, I hope many will come to my Open House to launch Rosewood for weary women. (I am 80 1/2. It’s never too late.)
I’d love to win this book! I struggle with wanting to invite people, but not knowing exactly how to pull it off. This seems especially challenging in these pandemic times.
Maribel Lazaro says
Yes, you reminded me of my single years, longing for a life-partner. We will only find deep joy if we surrender our life to Jesus. He knows our hearts and He will always be with us if we open our hearts to Him as well as to others — our community. Be a blessing to others — by doing that, you are blessing our Lord’s heart. Our God answers our prayers, our needs, when we put our faith in the One Who planned every detail of our lives and this will unfold in His own perfect time. God bless!
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