It'll be particularly special for Willa Gray, as Akins details all of the trials and tribulations she and Thomas Rhett went through while adopting her from Uganda in 2017.
"Some of that she can't even really process just yet," Akins says. "Her little mind is still learning about that part of her story. She's starting to get it. She told somebody else the other day, she says, 'Yeah, Ada James came out of my mommy's tummy, and I was born in Africa.' I was just like, 'Wow.' It was like all of a sudden she grew up so fast. She talks about it so matter-of-factly, and she's so proud to say that she's from Africa. We stay in touch with our friends in Africa, and she's so proud of her friends and where she's from. I think that's such a cool part of her story. Africa is obviously a massive part of my heart."
"It makes me so happy that she loves it so much, even though I know that she can't remember it," she continues. "But one day soon I want to take her back and let her see everybody who knew her when she was a little baby [so she can] grow up knowing her country, Uganda, and the people who loved her before I even met her. I'm really excited for that, but also glad that I was able to write that part of her story down so that she does have a good bit of it on paper."
Though Akins says she's feeling a bit anxious about the memoir's release, she's "ready for it" to be out there.
"It's been a long time coming," she says. "I'm ready to get it behind me, the good and the bad, and just to have the project complete will feel really good."
Live in Love is available now. Keep reading for an exclusive excerpt from the book.
The influence of having kids has had a direct impact on Thomas Rhett's writing. I make no apologies for standing up and reminding him that he has a responsibility to his two children, which means that he better be keeping his lyrics family-friendly. I remind him that Willa Gray and Ada James are listening to and singing those lyrics, and he'd better think twice about what he puts on his records. There's a lot of pressure in the music business to keep things "edgy" and "cool," but honestly, the fact that he's choosing a more family-centered approach to songwriting these days doesn't seem to be hurting his career. Just the opposite. And the large number of parents who bring their kids and teens to his concerts makes that pretty clear.
I'm not bitter anymore about the work he has to do, or the times when he has to travel without us, because the two of us are on the same page now.
I can't even count the number of times last summer, in the middle of the week, when we would end up going on a walk around the neighborhood, or just sitting outside, firing up the grill, while the lightning bugs started glowing and Willa Gray went running around, chasing the dogs all over the place, and Ada James started taking her first steps. It seemed like every few nights, [my sister] Macy and her husband, Tyler, were stopping by, and then [TR's father] Rhett and Sonya came walking in, and Ford and April from the neighborhood showed up with their kids, who started running around with ours. And then my parents came over, and Paige and Tim, and Kasey and little Tyler swung by, and when we sat down to eat, my dad said the prayer and made every one of us tell God what we were thankful for before we ate our food.
I looked around at all those faces, and I knew what I was thankful for the most. These people were, and always would be, the center of our world.
Having kids is funny. They always surprise you. Whenever Dad performed his pre-dinner ritual, Willa Gray tended to say she was thankful for The Little Mermaid, or Kona, or Cash, or her Barbie dolls, or ice cream. Then, one night last summer my dad said, "And Willa Gray, what are you thankful for?"
And Willa Gray looked around the table and thought about it really hard, and said, "I'm thankful for my baby sister Ada James. I love her sooooooo much."
Talk about hearts in a puddle on the floor. To hear my little girl put her love for her sister into words like that, and to stop and think for even one moment about the incredible odds that had to be overcome in order for these two girls to become sisters, it just blew my mind. Like, I can hardly believe that we get to live this life. The one our family is living right now.
How incredibly lucky are we, every single one of us, to get to live this life that we've got?
"That was so good, baby girl," Thomas Rhett said to Willa Gray, pick¬ing her up and sitting her down on his lap.
I caught Thomas Rhett's eye across the table in that moment and I could tell he was thinking the exact same thing I was. We smiled at each other with this loving, shared smile of a husband and wife who’d been through a thing or two—knowing that if either of us had given up at any point along the way, we wouldn’t be here. We wouldn't be living in love, in this perfectly imperfect life of ours.
We knew it.
We recognized it.
And we were grateful.
Excerpt from Live in Love by Lauren Akins, copyright © 2020 by Salty Blue, LLC. Used by permission of Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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