THE J. MURPHY FAMILY
"My husband and I have five extra-precious blessings, all adopted internationally from China. Our family-building journey began back in 2005 when there was an identified need to bring home healthy infant girls. My husband had remembered, as a teenager, learning about the “Dying Rooms” in China where countless little lives were lost merely because of their gender, and the minute adoption became a subject in our home, Jim made it clear that was definitely an option he wanted to explore. Though the seed hadn’t been planted in my heart the same way, I knew – somehow – that my motherhood wouldn’t come from my own womb, and that never bothered me. I was 100% on board with God’s plan, since pregnancy obviously wasn’t part of it, so we entered new territory called the adoption process.
We were matched with our first little treasure named “Xiaoyuan” (pronounced “Sh-ow U-en” ) meaning “intelligence, brightness, and beauty” in 2006, and that’s when we first discovered how we could so naturally, and easily, fall in love with a child long before we’d even met them—with that little seed called “yes” that sprouts into a winding adoption process and then wildly blossoms when you lay eyes and hands upon that little human being for the first time. There’s always a unique and complex mix of emotions involved, ranging from an unexplainable level of fear to an inconceivable new level of joy. We stared at her picture for days on end and named our daughter-to-be Madolyn Olivia. After a three-month wait that seemed like years, she was perfect in every way when we finally held her in our aching arms—a robust and beautiful brown-skinned baby who’d been blessed with the love of a foster family in China. She gobbled down Cheerios and grieved in her own quiet way as we navigated our new roles in her world. Baby Madi fit like a glove into our lives, and she’s lived up to her Chinese given name in every sense. That child tapped into an overflowing source of love in our hearts that we hadn’t even realized was within us. She opened the floodgates to new life in our souls.
In 2008, we felt it was the right time for a sibling after settling in to our new-parent status for a couple of years, and we started the adoption process again. By that time, some rules and shifts had taken place in China, and healthy infant girls were –thankfully –being adopted domestically; however, that new trend in China’s culture began to leave a growing number of abandoned boys, and many of them with moderate to severe special needs that their birthparents likely couldn’t afford to treat. When our agency approached us with the gender option, we were perfectly willing to bring home a boy, and in January of 2010, we traveled back to China to adopt our first son, Daniel. He was two years old at the time and living with congenital heart disease, specifically Tetralogy of Fallot (a combination of four heart defects). He was the most beautiful child—milky white skin, cherry red lips (when they weren’t blue from his heart disease), and enormous—soulful—dark brown eyes. Despite the unknowns involved, our hearts were both beating to the drum of hope, and my husband and I knew that our “yes” was the only answer to the most honorable call to parent another child.
We brought Daniel home and enjoyed a quiet life of cocooning, bonding, and creating memories for four months. He had the sweetest voice that sounded soft and scratchy, somewhat like Elmo, and it was nearly impossible not to give in to his every whim. Although my over-protective ways constantly attempted to keep Daniel in a bubble, I also knew I was squelching his ability to live life like a typical toddler. My husband, on the other hand, treated Daniel with all the ruggedness that a big and burly Papa Bear would, and our son adored the chance to be a little thrill-seeker. At times, we both longed to pack him up and drive far, far away to avoid his operation, but we knew his anatomy desperately needed correction to give him a chance at long life.
Our son’s open-heart surgery took place on May 11th, 2010, and though our boy came out of surgery strong, he went into cardiac arrest the next morning, and we spent the following nineteen days fighting for Daniel’s life. There were days that we saw miracles in his improvement, and there were days of organ failures and setbacks that brought us to our knees. Daniel never came home from that hospital. His tired body just couldn’t take it anymore and he left us for Heaven on Trinity Sunday. It was the most dark and raging storm of our lives, leaving a path of sheer devastation, including that of a four-year-old sister who could barely process her new grim reality without her little brother to spoil. We never lost hope though, and the Lord showed up for us constantly with signs of His goodness and faithfulness. Daniel was a blessing beyond measure, and he’d transformed our souls just by being in our lives. We were thankful that he did not die alone; he was a beloved son, brother, grandson, Godson, and nephew. How blessed I am to be called as his earthly mother.
Amidst the most intense pain we'd ever experienced, the Holy Spirit seared two things into my heart. The first was “Share his story,” and as commanded, I penned Daniel’s short life in our family through a memoir called "With an Open Heart" and preserved every scrap of detail I could remember about Daniel and how he changed us. The royalties from my labor of love were always designed to be donated charitably to orphan-care ministries in Daniel’s memory. The second message was “Go back,” and we were scared-beyond-scared to say yes again, but we knew that familiar tug of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, and our obedience led us straight to another son. Less than a year later – we were China-bound on an airplane to bring home our son Charlie, an eighteen-month-old baby with a reported heart defect. Bringing another child home didn’t replace Daniel, and we never expected that to happen. It did, however, manage to bring fresh, new joy to our hearts. We knew that Daniel would’ve wanted that for our family. We also knew he would’ve wished that future upon another child, since we had room in our home and in our hearts. By the time we arrived in China for Charlie, his heart defect had spontaneously healed, and he was a healthy little baby who simply needed nurturing and nourishment in order to thrive.
Life was grand with just our two little ones until one Sunday morning in December 2012, when we sat in a pew at Mass and listened to a homily about the Holy Family. That message we heard about the sacred significance of the parent/child relationship between Joseph, Mary, and Jesus shot straight into my heart, and I knew the Lord was calling us to open our hearts again. My husband immediately shot the idea down thinking I’d lost my mind, since we had about zero funds to spare, but I begged him to trust in God’s financial provision for a child and promised that I would handle every detail of the fundraising.
Jim begrudgingly agreed to start another process, but I knew those hard feelings would soften on his giant teddy bear interior. The Lord did provide financially through the hands and hearts of many loving friends, and although we had envisioned another daughter in our family, we were matched with a five-and-a-half year old little boy named Xiao Xiao on March 18, 2014. It was new territory with a medical diagnosis of clubbed feet, which we would discover was much less scary than it sounded, and we were entering the new world of older child adoption, which brought a completely different set of learning curves than adopting a baby. Xiao Xiao’s photo revealed an unmistakable sadness in his eyes that screamed “love me,” and so we would. We gave him his new name “Joseph” the day after we received his file, which happened to be the Feast day of St. Joseph, a day in our faith honoring the ultimate foster father to the son of God. Joseph became an official member of our family in China on his brother Charlie’s birthday, September 16, and he was baptized in December 2014 at the Feast of the Holy Family – the same Mass where the seed of adoption had been planted in my heart exactly two years earlier. It felt like such a full-circle miracle! Charlie and Joseph have been "twinned" for the most part, and they truly are Oscar and Felix of the Odd Couple (showing my age). God could not have matched them more perfectly as brothers.
I knew in my heart we weren’t done though. I truly felt the Lord telling me there was still room for one more in the nest—maybe it was that one empty seat in our van; maybe it was the uneven number of kids for our family outings; or maybe it was the extra seat at the dinner table. It was a void that simply needed to be filled. My husband was feeling the “fear” factor again though and voiced his reluctance for fear of financial wreckage. It’s a paralyzing word, isn’t it? It can lead to a host of detrimental thoughts like ours “How can we ever afford this?” to “Is it possible for us to love this child who doesn’t share our DNA?” and “Will we ruin our other kids by adopting?” These fears can be real and present factors, and each one of our adoptions has been almost like climbing a faith-ladder to overcome the paralysis. One by one, we climbed another rung and faced those fears head-on. They were all limitations that we put on ourselves, and God's plans were obviously so much better than ours. In typical fashion with a heart the size of a planet, Jim changed his mind after he’d prayed and prayed about it. He simply couldn’t deny that we had “enough” to give to another child. In 2016, we brought home our littlest love, Lulu. She, like Joseph, was almost six when we were united with her. Though our spit-fire daughter has a somewhat scary sounding paper diagnosis of cerebral palsy, it is a label that does not define her—this girl is as determined and strong as the day is long. She amazes us constantly with her confidence and perseverance. She has managed to make leaps and bounds of progress in the two years since we first brought her home.
After Lulu’s adoption, Jim and I both knew we were “on hold” to bring home any more children for lack of resources and our older age. I’ll never utter the words “we’re done,” however, our nest finally felt complete, and I heard the Lord say “you’ve worked ten years to build your family, now go live and enjoy each other.” But as someone whose eyes have been opened, I couldn't dare stop there. On May 30th, 2016, six years after our Daniel had left us to be with Jesus, Open Hearts for Orphans was born—the beauty from ashes non-profit organization created in our son Daniel's memory to support orphan care and adoption. It is an incredible gift to do this work, and it is an honor to serve the most vulnerable of God’s children.
We hope and pray that you find ARISE to be a wealth of information and support wherever you are in the process."
-Lisa Murphy, Delray Beach, FL