getting dressed up, feeling unworthy + learning from others


Nothing made me feel more like a little Iowa girl in the big city than the Angels in Adoption gala at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C. I like to talk a big game about being a city girl, but attending an event with celebrities, politicians, red carpets, and 100-course meals put a few stars in my corn-fed eyes.

Ok, so there weren’t 100 courses. And there weren’t that many celebrities. And I definitely was not invited to walk on the red carpet and security came when I tried to hug Hugh Jackman (kidding). But still. It wasn’t the type of event this work-at-home mom of two normally attends.

It might have been a fancy dinner with lots of fancy sponsors in a fancy building — but it was filled with ordinary people who spend their lives at home loving and advocating for under-resourced children through foster care, adoption, and family preservation. We were seriously so honored to be among so many people doing incredible, incredible things. Not for attention, not to fulfill hero complexes or to pat themselves on the back — but just because they have seen a need and are trying to help fill it.

I just wanted to sit in the back quietly and listen and learn.

One of the most moving moments of the evening was when George Dennehy spoke and performed. He was born in Romania, and he was born without arms. He shared that his biological parents believed that he was cursed, not an uncommon belief in the area. They brought him to an orphanage, where he was severely malnourished and neglected. At one year, he weighed 9 pounds. Nine pounds.

My six-month-old son weighs 19 pounds — and weighed 8 pounds when he was born. Hearing George speak about his beginnings broke my heart into million little pieces. Just…I can’t even.

But George’s story has hope. While adoption is just one small piece of mending the issues that led to his situation, it has played a pivotal role in his life. He was adopted from the orphanage soon after a visiting doctor went ahead and wrote an estimated death date on George’s picture. An ordinary family heard about George and took a risk and called him son. And those parent’s spoke life into him. They invested in him and gave him what any child needs: a loving family.

And you know that no arms thing? George plays cello, guitar, bass and piano…with his feet. And he played some music at the event and I could have just melted into a little puddle. Did I mention he is committed to following Jesus?

{Local friends: George is going to be in our area speaking + performing on Nov. 10. Let’s go!}

The emcees of the evening were Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy, whose story with their son Michael Oher inspired The Blind Side. They were a little crazy and hilarious and Southern and convicting, too.


Maybe my favorite thing Leigh Anne said was that if you don’t have someone in your friend circle who doesn’t look like you, shame on you. Right to the gut, huh?

Not easy to hear, but how true is that? We should all know people who don’t think like us, act like us, and look like us. Not because it’s convenient, but because that’s how the Kingdom of God is. It’s a group of all different types of people that share a common ground rooted in Jesus Christ. We can learn from each other + be better for it.

Hearing speaker after speaker, story after story, I was blown away with how many stories reflected the life-giving love of God. I just felt Jesus everywhere. It was by no means a religious or Christian event, but so many people reflected the Kingdom + shined His light as they spoke. Alain Datcher, a former foster youth who was born to abusive parents did his undergraduate at Biola University and is working on his graduate degree in public policy at Pepperdine University shared the profound renewal he experienced when his older sister introduced him to the living God. And Willie and Korie Robertson (Duck Dynasty) straight up preached. (Let’s hope that Jonny doesn’t decide to grow his hair quite that long.)


Willie said that though their business has grown and they have a best-selling TV series, by far the best decision he has ever made was to adopt their son. Wow.

And in the 88-page program, there were stories upon stories of all of the “Angels in Adoption” — so many of them giving glory to Jesus.


I think what I took away is that God can use us all to build his Kingdom. We don’t have to be perfect, or close to it. We don’t have to be celebrities. We don’t have to be profoundly spiritual. We don’t have to have lots of money in the bank.

We just have to love God and love others, and be open to his Spirit’s prompting. God will use us right where we are.


At the end of the evening, we got to meet Lauren, who is the sweetest person who works for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption. She was seriously so nice and told us that we were the youngest couple to be nominated, which was crazy.

So, yeah. It was really fun to go to a swanky gala and to get dressed up, but at the end of the day, these families are all going back home to their jobs and their kids and their messy lives and the good, the bad, the ugly.

Opening our hearts to obey God’s commandments to love deeply and fully is not an easy thing. It’s so much easier to close the curtains and be comfortable — this I know. But when we take a step out and reach a hand out, the impact is incredible.

31 days of living the kingdom at home

Read more in this series.

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3 thoughts on “getting dressed up, feeling unworthy + learning from others

  1. Kayla- this is AH-MAZING. I’m so glad you got to experience this event and to hear about all the amazing famous and non-famous people changing the world. WOW.

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