What do joy, kindness and pixie dust have in common? Kayla Marie Adkins.
Our family’s love affair with Kayla began when she and our oldest daughter, Bethany, were in Kindergarten. Both homeschooling families, their journey began in a co-op. From the first day together, they knew their lives would be joined in a wonderful way. They laughed, talked, played horses, and dreamed together. Our daughter became the person she is today in part because of Kayla’s presence in her life. Indeed, Kayla influenced every life she touched.
Kayla and I bonded over sleepovers, playdates, parties, and our love of Christmas. We remained close through texting and Instagram. She even remembered my birthday and Mother’s Day!
How did Kayla do it? She saw life through her Savior’s eyes, anticipating God’s beauty, goodness and truth everywhere, in everyone. Her pastor wisely observed—
Kayla’s life exuded magic and mercy.
With all this optimism, you might be tempted to think she lived a fairy tale life. While sunshine, animals, Disney princesses and Mickey magic emanated from her being, she endured her share of pain in her 25 years. Something few people knew because she refused to dwell on life’s hardships, focusing instead on the joy of living, dreaming and magic.
At 12, Kayla experienced her first seizure, followed in high school by bouts of tremendous pain. Hospitals became a new normal.
But neither epilepsy nor acute ulcerative colitis could overshadow her enchanting smile, contagious laughter, and Kayla-kindness.
I marveled at her selflessness and the joy she sprinkled wherever she landed, wishing for an insider’s view into how such joy radiated from her soul despite the hardships.
After tears, stories, laughter and contemplation these past few weeks, 4 principles emerged I believe guided Kayla’s life.
1. Discover the wonder and magic in each moment.
While cliche on the surface, dig with me for a moment, mining the treasures Kayla unearthed.
Kayla discovered the delights of setting her mind on things above. (Col. 3:2)
Her sunny disposition evidenced an earnest faith in God’s presence in the world. She trusted God’s hand and relentlessly bore witness to it.
When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably. Walt Disney
Living in the present—neither dwelling on the past nor worrying about the future—Kayla chased the wonder and magic in each moment.
This is easy when life is rosy, right? But what about when the brokenness of this world collides with our carefully calculated plans, hopes and dreams?
Kayla’s answer? Sprinkle pixie dust over our circumstances—not to change them, but to shift our perspective.
Discover the magic in the mundane. Find joy in the journey. See life through child-like eyes of faith.
Embracing the wonder of God’s Kingdom, she intentionally brought it down to earth as often as possible—on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)
That’s the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up. They forget. Walt Disney
2. Focus on others, and you’ll find the joy and magic in life.
One particularly hectic day at Sweet Eugene’s, Bethany’s workplace during her A&M years, Kayla stopped in for coffee. Perceiving Bethany’s distress, she reached in her backpack where she kept hand-crafted cards for just such occasions and wrote a note of encouragement, slipping it across the counter before she left.
Kayla regularly prioritized kindness over convenience, sharing God’s most precious of gifts—mercy. She embodied His kindness, understanding God’s kindness leads people to Him. (Romans 2:4)
Throw kindness around like it’s confetti. Kate Spade
Of course, Kayla had beautiful relationships with her sisters—the 4 Mouseketeers in her mind no doubt, sprinkled with a little Goofy.
There were never such devoted sisters—White Christmas.
And no one could boast of more best friends than Kayla. How could one girl possess so many best friends? She focused on others, making each feel seen, heard and loved.
Love each other in a way that makes you feel close like brothers and sisters. And give each other more honor than you give yourself. Romans 12:10 (ERV)
3. Look for the best in others.
Kayla chose to see and believe the best in people, seeing others through her Father’s eyes—with mercy and kindness.
The worst of us is not without innocence, although buried deep it might be. Walt Disney
Kayla possessed the unique gift of helping others (re)discover their innocence. She found good everywhere, bringing it to the surface by any means of fun and laughter possible.
4. Embrace the joy of your uniqueness.
At an early age, Kayla discovered her place—snuggled close to Jesus, listening to His heart beating just for her. (John 21:20)
The closer in proximity to Jesus, the more clearly we discern our calling.
With her God-ordained call clearly in view, she unashamedly pursued it, understanding who God created her to be and how He called her to live.
The more you like yourself, the less you are like anyone else, which makes you unique. Walt Disney
She resolutely reached for the stars in pursuit of her unique purpose alongside Jesus.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10
Kayle embodied the spirit of Disney from a young age. Despite difficulties and setbacks, she continued to pursue her God-given dreams, understanding we’re most like ourselves when living out our unique calling.
Joyfully announcing to Bethany recently, she landed her “grown-up Disney career,” serving as testament to her tenacious resilience. She discovered dreams really come true with faith in the One who ordains them, patient persistence, and a little pixie dust.
All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them. Walt Disney
Kayla understood the magic and mystery of God’s Kingdom here on earth. She chose to look for the beauty and goodness in others and the world. Those who knew her well testify to keeping company with a real Disney princess.
Now the truest and forever princess to her adoring Father and King in the grandest Kingdom of all, she reminds us—
“Have a magical day with faith and trust and a little pixie dust!”
*Kayla died of an epileptic seizure on October 1, 2021. For more on epilepsy awareness, or to donate on her behalf, please visit the Epilepsy Foundation.