In our hopes to open doors and expose the amazing light God shines from those who know pain and adversity and heartache, Wendy and I have met so many extraordinary people. This is the 15th post in our Breaking Light series.
Today, we invite Lisa Murphy to the table. Anna “met” Lisa via Ann Voskamp’s Facebook page, feeling led to seek her out after reading her comment there. Anna was amazed by the story Lisa had to share and is now reading and being deeply blessed by her book, With An Open Heart, which tells the story of her son, Daniel, who passed into heaven six years ago. Lisa, who blogs at www.withanopenheartbook.com is kindly offering a copy of this book here today as a giveaway. Keep reading to find out more about Daniel’s story and how you can enter to win a copy of the full story. The proceeds of With an Open Heart are donated to orphan care ministries and the book is available on Amazon. Be sure to also register for the Goodreads Giveaway through August 30th!
Lynn and Carolina: you have won a copy of Ifeoma’s book, Overcome Failure, by commenting on Tuesday’s post. I’ll be sending a copy your way soon.
Anna: Welcome, Lisa. Thank you so much for joining us today. To help our readers get to know you better, we’d love to hear of all the characters in the Bible, who do you most relate to and why?
Lisa: Maybe not one of the main characters of the Bible, but I totally relate to the parable of the Prodigal Son because, for many years, I was such a lost sheep. And I am just so grateful that now I’m found! As much as I’d like to erase many of my life’s mistakes, they’ve formed me into who I am now, therefore I must be thankful for those messy parts, too.
Anna: I love that parable. It always amazes me how Jesus doesn’t just respond lovingly, but also excitedly at the lost son’s return. So true that we must be thankful for even those messy parts.
What is one of your favorite Scriptures and why does it mean so much to you?
Lisa: There are several that deeply resonate with me now. I find it funny (in the interesting sort of way) that when I first began to write With an Open Heart back in 2011, I wrote about how I’d never been able to quote any verse from the Bible and now—five years later—I lean on many of them! My current favorite happens to be a verse that was Holy Spirit sent in 2015 during the adoption process of our daughter, Lulu, and became the center of our “Built Together” adoption shirt fundraiser . I kept seeing the numbers “222” everywhere and was led to Ephesians 2:22 “And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.” I love that truth that we are all “under construction” to become, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the most glorious restorations that we can be!
Anna: How beautiful that the Spirit led you as a family to this Scripture. So thankful for God’s restorative power in our lives and how He is building us together.
What events, circumstances or struggles in your life have been and/or continue to be your deepest valleys?
Lisa: One word—control—continues to be one of my struggles, still, even walking in complete faith in God’s plan for my life! The struggle is real, as they say, and I find it difficult to “Let go, and let God” sometimes. But clearly my deepest valley was losing our son, Daniel, who my memoir is written about. That was the life-changer. That was the event that brought real transformation in my heart and soul.
In July of 2009, after waiting for the adoption referral of our second child for six months, we received the file of our son, Daniel. He was a two-year-old boy living in an orphanage in China with a broken heart (four major heart defects) and his file scared us to no end. But we felt God calling us to make Daniel our son. We heard the Holy Spirit whispering, “Love this child.” And we did. We stepped out in faith and brought Daniel home in January 2010.
We were given the chance to love him, in his physical presence, for four months but his body just couldn’t recover from the open-heart surgery that he so desperately needed, and he went to Heaven after nineteen days in the hospital. I will never regret our “yes” nor would I trade in all the pain of losing Daniel, because he was worth the fight—he was worthy of a family and he was deserving of our love.
Want to know more about Daniel and the mark he left in the world? Please buy the book!
Anna: In what ways have you experienced God’s nearness in this deepest valley?
Lisa: I still have trouble putting into words the feeling of being “divinely embraced” after losing our son. I truly felt like I was in a giant bubble of protection that kept me from falling apart, (or maybe I was just wrapped in a very large and soft pair of angel’s wings). We were so sad, obviously, and I grieved hard, but my agony was overshadowed by a deep and profound gratitude for the precious gift that God had given us. I felt His presence at every turn, through the Holy Spirit’s promptings in others, and through continual signs that soothed our hearts with peace and hope.
I share, in my book, some of the signs God sent us in our darkest hours. Almost immediately after Daniel died, Jimmy and I strongly felt the Holy Spirit calling us to go back and adopt another child. We knew that our son couldn’t be replaced—there would never be another Daniel, but we also knew that there were millions of other orphans living in the world who needed families. We started the process almost right away, and our deep holes of grief were filled with a peace and joy that surpassed understanding.
Taking another leap in faith allowed God to be present in our lives, and I would encourage anyone struggling with loss to find something meaningful to fill their “holes of grief” with, whether it’s ministering to others who suffer or finding positive ways to honor their loved ones. It’s the best salve for the soul.
Anna: I cannot even begin to fathom the depth of your grief, which makes it incredible to hear how God has been carrying you through this. Thank you so much for sharing and encouraging us through your story.
Lisa, Often, people apologize to us for these deep valleys: for the loss, the grief or the hard of our journey, wishing they could take it all away. What would you like to say to people whose hearts ache reading of your valley?
Lisa: I would like them to know that I appreciate their connection and their feelings—it’s a woman’s nature to console, and I am thankful if they feel blessed and touched by our family’s story. I can’t say that I am sorry for “the hard” of my journey. Afterall, is anyone’s journey not hard? We will all face trials in our lives. And I believe it’s how we deal with those hardships that defines us…whether we make the choice to view those losses as heart-breakers or as faith-makers. Please don’t mistake my perspective as trying to soften things or make it sound better. I miss our son terribly, but it’s hard for me to evoke the same gut-wrenching emotions that I had six years ago. Time, and the grace of God, has healed me. I am so thankful for my book, which captured exactly what I was feeling as it was happening. Writing With an Open Heart was my grieving process. And when I reflect on the beauty from ashes that’s been created in the wake of his passing? Wow. Losing Daniel was my faith maker, because I found myself leaning on Jesus more than I’d ever before, and my relationship with Him increased in immeasurable ways. That was the gift. Daniel opened our hearts more than we imagined possible, and I can’t be sorry for that—I’m grateful for it.
Anna: What an amazing God we serve! I am in awe of the powerful healing He has brought.
Lisa, In what ways have you seen God minister to others through your deep valleys?
Lisa: Shortly after Daniel died, I felt a calling from the Holy Spirit to write his memoir. It was a strong feeling, and I knew that I was meant to share a message of inspiration and faith that might help others. And I believe it has. I’ve received messages of how people have been affected by With an Open Heart—some who share the common painful loss of a child, some who’ve found their faith through our story, and some who’ve been made more aware of the orphan crisis and would now consider adoption perhaps. This book means more to me than I’d ever dreamed of, because it keeps Daniel alive—he lives on through my words, and through our giving in his memory.
Anna: Oh how I love hearing how God mmultiplies His blessings. It is amazing how He has used your book.
How have you seen God build community through your deepest valleys?
Lisa: There’s something so profoundly beautiful about the way people come together to minister to the needs of others in times of need, isn’t there? When you are the recipient of that outreach, it is truly a humbling experience. Our local community was a rock-solid pillar of support for our family—truly like the hands and feet of Jesus. Our loss brought others together in faith and opened up conversations about losing a child. It made schools of children (and church congregations) openly discuss having faith in the storms. Our son’s journey in our family created mass prayer chains, and Daniel’s life opened hearts and minds to adoption. I have witnessed community built through social media, even, as the administrator for a grief support group on Facebook.
Anna: Oh yes, it is profoundly beautiful. I’m so thankful a community stepped in around you and it is so wonderful to hear how God is growing a bigger community through your story.
What has been the biggest blessing of the ministry and community that have grown through your deepest valleys?
Lisa: There have been so many blessings to reflect on besides the publishing of With an Open Heart, which has allowed us to donate to many worthy causes in Daniel’s memory over the past four years. My husband and I have since adopted three more children! It has been a tremendous blessing to witness our community rally to help us bring our children home through endless financial provision and prayer. And I’m in the process of finally launching a non-profit organization in Daniel’s memory. It’s been a long time coming, and I’m so excited to dive into this next chapter and minister to the least of these.
Anna: That’s wonderful news. So exciting to follow Our God and see where He takes us.
What one piece of advice or kernel of wisdom would you like to leave with our readers from your journey through your hard thus far?
Lisa: Reach out of that comfort zone! I have found that the greatest reward comes when we face our biggest fears and take those risks in faith that God calls us to take. That’s where the real blessing begins. Live, listen, leap!
If you’d like to go into the draw to win a copy of Lisa and her family’s incredible story, then please like her Facebook page and/or share this post to help us spread the word about the power and beauty of God’s Love displayed through Daniel’s life. And let us know you’ve done so here in the comments. You have until 7am on Tuesday, 16 August 2016 the Netherlands time to enter.
Lisa Murphy enjoys being a mom to four beautiful children and wife to Jim for over twenty four years. Lisa and Jim are practicing members of the Catholic faith since 2006, and their faith is an important part of their lives. Lisa has a true heart for adoption, and their five children have been adopted from China. Lisa is a sales consultant for Juice Plus + nutritional products and finds it a privilege to keep families healthy. She discovered her passion for writing in 2008 when she began writing a family blog to chronicle their daughter’s childhood. Her passion for writing turned a corner when their son, Daniel, entered their lives, and she ultimately wrote With an Open Heart. Through sales of her book, Lisa’s mission is to share an inspirational message of faith and to help support orphan care ministries with the proceeds.