My favorite memories from childhood always involve the holidays. Every year, my parents loaded me and my siblings into our van and traveled 13 hours away to see my grandma. It didn’t matter what time of day or night we arrived, my grandmother was always waiting at the door for us. She threw the door open and welcomed us into her waiting arms. I never doubted for a moment that she would welcome me inside. Her house was warm and cozy and inviting. Her kitchen smelled like good food and clean laundry. I loved to watch her work and she always took the time to pull up a chair for me to stand on so that I could get a better look.
I also loved to hear my family tell stories about their own childhoods. It fascinated me to think of my grandmother as a little girl. I remember distinctly the day I discovered that my grandmother’s childhood had been so much less inviting than mine. She was the youngest of 7 children. When she was 11, her mother became too ill to care for her. She moved in with an aunt. In one day, she lost her parents, siblings and her home. She was later adopted by her aunt after her mother passed away.
I was shocked to learn that the woman who filled me with such a sense of peace and security had lived through such an insecure time in her own life. I knew that I wanted to be the kind of person who opened my door to others when I grew up. I knew that I wanted to be just like my grandma, waiting at the door, with open arms, ready to welcome friends and family inside.
As an adult, I found a very practical way to keep my door open. I became a foster parent. From the time my family got our license, our home felt like a revolving door. We learned that keeping our door open meant a roller coaster of emotions. We would feel joy and heartache, hopefulness mixed with fear. Our open door led us to understand our own strengths and weaknesses in a way we never thought possible.
During a particularly difficult time in our life, we realized we had a choice to make. We could close our door or we could open it wide and continue to experience the uncertainty our family had come to expect. We settled on a compromise. We decided to keep our door open for a year. We agreed to allow God to guide our family and to trust in that plan for a year no matter what.
Here is what I learned during that one year:
I cannot do this alone
I have foolishly believed that the noble thing to do is to work alone. I have come to realize that I am stronger when I have a solid support system around me. It takes as much, or more courage to open my door to accepting help as it does to offer help.
Relationships are more than meets the eye
We often want to believe that people are good or bad. End of story. There is ALWAYS more to the story. People are a combination of character, past experiences, culture and learned behavior. There is always more than meets the eye. When we look for the good in people, we often find it.
My perspective can change and when it does, my relationships grow stronger
When I chose to look for the good in others, I usually find that there is so much to love about everyone I meet. When my own perspective shifts, I can grow deep and meaningful relationships with others.
Relationships are worth more than gold
My son often asks me if I’m rich, I can respond two ways, the first is to tell him that I have a TON of kids and bills are often tight. The other sounds a little corny but it is equally true, I have a TON of kids, extended family, good neighbors and wonderful friends. I am rich beyond measure.
You can read more about Kristin’s foster parenting journey in her new book Keep the Doors Open which is available now.