by Debbie Altman
When I was three years old, my parents and I got on an airplane and flew from Buffalo, NY where we lived, to Prince Edward Island, Canada. We checked into a hotel and shortly thereafter, a woman came to the hotel with an 8 month old baby boy. She left the baby with us and my parents told me that I now had a baby brother. For many years, I assumed that was how everyone got babies!
Not long afterwards, my mother explained to me that my brother and I were “adopted.” She explained, “God knew there would be babies in the world that needed mommies and daddies, so He allowed there to be parents who didn’t have babies, and He put them together to be families.” This made sense to me! Growing up, I never felt deprived or angry about being adopted, but actually felt unique and special. I mean, anyone could come into a family the normal way, but my parents had picked me! I was adopted and proud of it!
While I never resented being adopted there were things I wondered about such as, did I look like my birth mom, was I like her, did she ever think about me?
My adoptive mother died of cirrhosis of the liver when I was 28, and the years afterward were filled with ministry, work, children, marriage and personal healing. But at 38, I finally felt a release to try to find my birthmother.
My adoption was a “closed” adoption and information was not freely available. I had no idea where to start. I remember praying a prayer….”Lord, I don’t have a lot of time, and I don’t have a lot of money, and I’m certainly not looking for more pain in my life! But, if it is your will, I would like to find my mom, and I need you to help me!” The Lord opened doors and gave me direction, and after a relatively short time, I obtained the name and address of a woman that I believed to be my mother. I wrote her a letter (snail mail!) and explained why I felt she could be my mom, that I was not mad at her, that I had a good family, and I sent her a picture of myself with Craig and our two children. I asked her to call me either way, and let me know if I was correct. The next few days were the longest of my life! I was excited but also nervous and fearful. I thought of the most terrible scenarios. What if she had a really messy life? What if she didn’t want anything to do with me?
After three long days, I received a phone call from the woman I had written to, and she sounded very nervous. Yes, she was my mother! We talked for over an hour, and she shared her story. I went to visit her a few months later and we were amazed at how much we looked alike. Even more amazing to me, was how much I acted like her. I told my husband I now knew who he could blame for his wife’s spunky, sometimes stubborn personality! Along with a new mother, who I have a wonderful relationship with, I also gained 3 half-sisters who had not known that I existed, but who opened their arms to me. (That is a story in itself, as you can imagine….)
After meeting my mother and sisters, I began to have a new train of thought I had never considered when originally looking for them. What if finding them was not about me at all, but about them? What if God had plans for them that he was now going to use me to help fulfill? If I had not been adopted, would I be a Christian today? Did the Lord need a woman in Tampa that would lead Craig to Christ and be his helpmeet, to later go on and found and pastor Grace Family Church?
I believe, as in the life of Joseph, the Lord sometimes uses a circuitous path to get us where He needs us to be, to weave His great plans and purposes. I am so grateful to both of my mothers; they have each given me so much. And I am grateful to Jesus Christ who is trustworthy and good; whose ways are perfect; and who has chosen and adopted me!
Debbie is the wife of Pastor Craig Altman, and together, they founded Grace Family Church 18 years ago. She is a former RN and mother of a 27 year old married daughter and 26 year old son. She is also known as “Nona” to her precious granddaughter. Debbie enjoys family, reading and the beach, and is inappropriately competitive at board games.