When Ryan asked me if I wanted to share my story, I struggled at the thought of trying to piece together the different parts of my life. I struggled because there were so many ways I could have written my story. So many ways to describe how I have seen God’s faithfulness woven throughout my life. But, as I sat down to write these words, things became so clear—this isn’t just my story. It’s the story of many people, of their prayers, and of God’s goodness. I hope that, at the end of this, you’ll see how great is the One who began a good work in me all those years ago.
Many people ask me when I first learned that I was adopted. I typically ask a question back to them, “When did you learn about how you were born?” They normally answer with, “Well I’ve always known,” to which I typically smile and respond, “Me, too.”
My mom advises other adopting parents of infants to start telling their stories at a young age. She believes that when you do this, and talk freely about it, your child realizes that the way they came to be part of their family was natural. So, by the time I was old enough to talk, I could tell you that my name is Katy Alter and that I was adopted at two days old through Bethany Christian Services. My birth mom was an eighteen-year-old who had been adopted herself from Korea. She went through a rebellious stage that resulted in her getting pregnant with me by my Israeli exchange student birth father. He couldn’t handle the pressure of fatherhood and walked out. I could tell you how she was the one who picked out my dad, mom and sister. That my dad almost passed out when they called him at work on the Tuesday after Easter in 1993 to tell him that he needed to drive to Greenville, SC from Clemson, SC to pick up his new baby daughter. I could even tell you how God, in his grace, made sure there were no cops on the highways that day as they sped down the road to pick me up.
However, as I have gotten older, these details of my story have become more than just the facts about how I was conceived and placed with my family. They have become an echo of God’s resounding love.
My last name is Alter. It means to change in a significant way. My parents wanted to name their adopted child Katy, if it was a girl, after my dad’s aunt, in a prayer that I may have her boldness to share God’s love. My Aunt Katy was half Japanese and half Korean. My parents had no idea they would be getting me, a half Korean girl, when they put that name down on their adoption packet. They couldn’t have known that my birth mom herself was adopted and that she would use that experience in choosing my family, and in choosing to even have me at all. My sister's name is Bethany, the same as the agency I was adopted through.
These are not just coincidences—I believe they are resounding pieces of evidence from God that I am His and have forever been altered because I have been adopted, both physically and spiritually.
My heavenly Father gave me an earthly mother with so much wisdom, who taught me from a young age that God had blessed me with the ability to be an ambassador for adoption. So, instilled with courage from my mom, I’ve never been shy about sharing the details of my story.
This has led me to being involved with all sides of the adoption spectrum. I’ve been a friend to a birth mom and walked her through the adoption process that she went through for her son. I’ve been a prayerful sister-in-Christ as I got to witness two of my closest friends adopt through the same Bethany office I was adopted through, and meet their son. It has also led me to being a speaker, along with my parents, to a group of waiting parents, who I hope one day will be able to tell their children how much they loved them as their own right from the start. There have been countless stories and moments with fellow adoptees. And even now, meeting Ryan and hearing his beautiful story. His story is so different from mine, but at the end of the day, I think we would both agree – God is the best author.
I typically like to focus on my birth mom when I talk about my story. I mean, who wouldn't? A brave seventeen-year-old thinking outside of herself to make decisions for me that have completely changed who I’ve become.
She loves me, I know that. My birth dad, on the other hand? He's just some guy. Some guy who never had interest in me, so why would I have any interest in him?
See, I should be a girl with daddy issues. My birth dad didn't even sign the papers to deny his rights. He didn't just leave my mom, he left the country and never looked back. I should be a girl who doesn't understand love. I should be a girl with identity issues and one who wallows in her father's abandonment. I should be the girl whose only image of her dad is his back as he walked out of her life. However, because of the loving decision my birth mom made, I know my dad. I know his cheesy dad jokes and his witty comebacks. I know his hand of discipline and his steady, tender voice of encouragement. I know what it's like to run toward him and dance on top of his feet. I know his face, his likes and dislikes, I know that he's proud of me. Most of all I know that he loves me. Right or wrong, at the end of the day, I know he will still be Team Katy and I will still be an Alter.
It's this image that has painted Christ's love for me since I was a little girl. Adoption redeemed my view of a father. Adoption took away the early abandonment to the extent that I don't even know what it means. Instead, I know true love, the kind that wraps you up in a bear hug and doesn't let you go. A love that gives you an identity.
I love being adopted. I love all that it means in my story and who that makes me to be. I love that it echoes my spiritual adoption and that they intertwine together to make me God's child. I love talking to fellow adoptees and dancing the big old celebration dance, because that is what adoption is. It's not a pity take-in, a story of abandonment, or bad decisions made. Adoption is a redemptive celebration dance—it points upwards at what God has done for each of us in that gave his own son to be adopted by a man named Joseph. If God didn't believe in adoption, he wouldn't have let his own son be a part of it.
John Piper once said that “adoption is the visible Gospel.” I couldn’t agree more.
The reason I know Jesus and understand my adoption into his family is because of all these pieces of my life – the good, the bad, and even the unwanted details. But more than any of that, I know Jesus because God was so gracious in giving me this story that is so full of His goodness. It's painful at times, often confusing, but always ends with the understanding that God has written me a story so full of His glory and goodness that I know I couldn’t deserve it. That is love.
So you can see…this isn’t just my story. It’s our story. And it’s about love that is complicated, yet simple. And I’m so glad God chose me to experience it.