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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • In this refreshing and inspiring memoir, Lauren Akins, the wife of country music star Thomas Rhett, shows what it’s really like to be “the perfect couple” fans imagine, and reveals what it actually takes to live in love, stay in love, and grow together.
When country music star Thomas Rhett won the ACM Award for Single of the Year with “Die a Happy Man,” his wife, Lauren Akins, was overjoyed. Her childhood best friend and now husband was being anointed the hottest new star in country music—for a song he had written about her. He was living his dream. Lauren was elated, but she was also wrestling with some big questions, not the least of which was, How can I live my own life of purpose?
Lauren Akins never wanted to be in the spotlight, but as Thomas Rhett made his relationship with Lauren the subject of many of his hit songs, she was tossed into the role of one of America’s sweethearts. Revered by fans for her down-to-earth ease and charm, her commitment to humanitarian work, and the pure love she exudes for her family, Lauren has never shared her side of their story—full as it’s been with deep love, painful loss, tremendous joy, and a struggle to stay grounded in faith along the way—until now.
In Live in Love, Lauren shares details about her childhood friendship with Thomas Rhett, explaining how they reconnected as young adults. She offers a rare behind-the-scenes look at the challenges of being married to her best friend, who just happens to be a music star, and the struggle to find her own footing in the frenzy of her husband’s fame. And in heart-wrenching detail, she opens up about her life-changing experiences doing mission work in Haiti, and then in Uganda, where she met the precious baby who would become their first daughter. From sharing the romance of their handwritten wedding vows to the challenges they faced as they adjusted to the reality of becoming first-time parents, Live in Love takes an intimate look at one couple’s life—and opens a window into all of our journeys on the path to self-discovery.
Live in Love is a deeply personal memoir that offers inspiring guidance for anyone looking to keep romance alive, balance children and marriage, express true faith, and live a life of purpose.
Under the Cover
An excerpt from Live in Love
At some point, most of us develop at least some idea of what we think our lives are going to be like when we grow up. But how often do we stop and take a moment to look back and think about where those dreams came from?
So much of what we want as adults gets formed in our hearts when we’re little kids, and yet, do any of us really remember how we first came up with the particular set of expectations we have for our own lives? I mean, when did those dreams and desires first set in? Was it just our families and upbringings that taught us what to like, or what not to like? Was it school that pointed us in one direction or another? Was it friends? Or church? Or something we barely even remember?
Were we even paying attention when God put those dreams in our hearts?
When I think back on my childhood, the first thing I see is an evening in the early summer. It’s dusk, when the lights are just starting to come on in the front yards, and the first few lightning bugs are starting to glow.
A dozen or more kids from our neighborhood are at my house playing kickball in the front yard. We’re midgame when we hear a voice call out from the front porch of a house just down the street.
“Y’all come home for supper!”
That would be Laurie, my friend Hunter’s mom, who also happened to be best friends with my mom. And without missing a beat, Hunter would yell back: “Five more minutes! We’re almost done!” Every kid would follow his lead and beg for the same thing. “Five more minutes. Just five more minutes!” Eventually Laurie and sometimes one or two of the other parents would just give up and let their kids stay at our house as long as they wanted.
Laurie would come walking down the street with whatever dishes she was going to serve at her own house that night, and I swear I can still smell the charcoal burning as she and my mom would get to work throwing hamburgers on the grill on our back porch.
“How many we got tonight?” my mom would yell. “Ten?”
The more the merrier in the Gregory household.
We’d keep on playing until it got so dark that we couldn’t see the ball anymore. Then everyone who was staying for supper would pile into the house, tired and hungry, with brown feet—’cause we never wore shoes.
We’d wash our hands (and maybe our feet) and form a line through the kitchen, loading up our plates and sitting ourselves down at the dining room table, where my dad would ask us all to hold hands before anyone was allowed to touch the food.
“Dear God,” he’d pray, “thank you so much for this great country we live in, where we get to worship you freely without risk of people coming after us and trying to kill us—”
My dad told it like it was. To everyone. Even God.
“Thank you so much for all the people out there on the front lines who protect us and allow us to have these freedoms,” he’d continue. “And thank you so much for Hailey and Hunter and Hannah and Kamron and Kara for being here with us tonight. Keep them safe as they go back to their own homes later, where they live, and bless all of our family and friends, and continue to give us health and safety and happiness in the future. Thank you so much for this food and bless it to the nourishment of our bodies.”
We’d be dying to dig into the food when he’d ask every one of us to go around the table and tell God something we were thankful for that day.
Hunter might say, “Hamburgers!” My sister Macy would chime in, “Sunshine!” I’d add, “Winning in kickball!” And on and on.
It didn’t matter if it was something small, something funny, or something profound. Everybody was grateful for something.
When it finally came back around to him, my dad would wrap it up, saying, “Please God, forgive us our sins, and help us to do better every day. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
And we’d all reply, as loud and fast as we could, “Amen!” as we dug in.
On lots of those nights, Laurie’s kids, Hailey and Hunter and Hannah, and Kamron and Kara (friends who lived across the street and just up the road in the opposite direction), and whoever else was there never even went back to their own houses. They’d end up sleeping over, sometimes along with a few other friends from the neighborhood, or kids from other far-off neighborhoods who we knew from school. We would get all of our extra quilts, blankets, and pillows and lay them on the floor, and all the boys would sleep in one room and all the girls in another, and as far as my parents were concerned, all were welcome.
We lived “up the hill,” north of Nashville, in a town so small it’s lucky to have its own post office. The nearest grocery store is fifteen minutes down the road, but we could get to downtown Nashville in twenty minutes if my parents managed to avoid rush-hour traffic.
We may not have lived in the city where everybody was close to everybody, but that didn’t matter, because everyone we knew wanted to come to our neighborhood, and especially to our house.
We all had big back yards surrounded by woods, where us kids would spend hours and hours exploring. Our front yards were big enough for kickball and capture the flag, and playing all kinds of games we’d make up on the spot. I can remember a bunch of us tying our bikes together with ropes to make a big bike-train one day, with our little siblings in the red wagon as the caboose. And everybody’s dogs were always running around off-leash, too, right out in the streets, just like us. The streets were small enough, the cars moved slow enough, and the neighbors were close enough that the chances of anything bad happening seemed small.
There were hardly any fences. Kids didn’t call each other to see who was home. We’d just go knock. I can’t even imagine how many times my mom opened the door to see some boy’s or girl’s face and hear, “Is Lauren home?”
If I was, she’d let ’em in. And if I wasn’t, if I was at soccer practice or something, they would ask, “Well, is Macy home?” and they’d end up coming in to play with my little sister.
Everybody knew everybody, and everybody watched out for everybody. And I know that sounds like something straight out of the 1950s, not the 1990s, as if I grew up in some kind of idyllic small-town neighborhood straight out of the American Dream, but honestly, that’s kind of what it felt like.
Our home was a red brick, ranch-style, one-story house with four small bedrooms. It was one of the smaller homes in the neighborhood, actually, which made it all the more fun that it was so full of people all the time. We had a big back porch, and a little front porch, and just enough space in the back yard to fit a trampoline before we hit the woods, which sloped down to a creek. Every time I walked in the front door the house smelled like good food and clean sheets. Not a soapy clean or sterilized clean, more like a place where you just want to stay. Like, “Mmmm. What is that smell? I don’t know if I want to eat it or wash with it!”
Our house was almost as full of kids in the wintertime as it was in summertime. Our neighborhood was up a little higher in elevation than Nashville, which meant it was always a few degrees colder and that we’d get more snow. And because we had all kinds of hills in our neighborhood, it was a perfect place to go sledding. So whenever the weatherman predicted there was a snowstorm coming, we would bring a slew of kids home with us from school. They’d all tell their parents, “We are going to the Gregorys’ tonight because we’re supposed to have a snow day tomorrow!” and at the end of the school day, Dad would load up our big ol’ Chevy Suburban with all the friends we could fit. Even when all the seats were full I’d open the window and yell, “We can fit three more in our car!” Then we’d call more people the moment we got home and ask, “Can you come spend the night?”
There’d be so many kids packed into our house all the time that everyone started calling it “Camp Gregory.” In the hallway at school I’d overhear kids asking their friends, “Y’all going to Camp Gregory tonight?”
My mom and dad embraced every kid that came over. I could bring someone home who looked different or talked different, even if they went to a different church or didn’t go to church at all, and I was never nervous to introduce them to my parents. I never once thought, “Oh, this person is really different, I don’t know how my parents are gonna react.”
One of the Gregory House Rules was that everybody is on the same playing field. My parents simply loved people, and they modeled that the whole time we were growing up.
Lauren Akins is a devoted mother, wife, and philanthropist who live in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, country superstar Thomas Rhett, and their three little girls, Willa Gray, Ada James, and Lennon. Lauren has worked as a missionary nurse for years and is enthusiastically continuing to support children in Uganda through her efforts with Love One International.