on guitars and vows, and all the love in between

Saturday, October 12, 2013

photo by Jesse
In college I bought my boyfriend a guitar.

I was a full-time student, and on the weekends I worked behind a deli counter in a grocery store. I saved every single penny from that awful job, and lived on four hundred dollars a month (no lie). The day I saved two thousand dollars, I turned in my apron and spent it all on an acoustic Martin guitar.

He was a student too, a religion major at a different school.  His plans included seminary and ordination, a life of church ministry and annual appointments.  But at the time he was in a band with some friends from school, and more than anything, he wanted to make music for a living.

I bought him a guitar at a time when we both lived on next to nothing.  It was the most ridiculous, inopportune time to spend money on nice things.  I did it anyway, because it was never about needing the guitar.  It was my way of saying to him, "You don't have to take the safe road.  You can do this, I know you can.  And when you do, I'm all in."

He did it.  He became a professional musician.  After graduation the band moved to Nashville, making albums, touring camps and church retreats, and selling t-shirts to keep a working transmission in their van.  They were poor, but they were self-sustaining.  In the world of Nashville musicians, that is no small feat.

I married that boyfriend, of course.  The days of touring with the band and living in Nashville are long behind us, but they set an important tone in our marriage.  We always knew we wouldn't take the safe roads in life.  We would pursue what we loved, no matter what.  It has cost us our pride and a lot of money, and we've failed as much and as big as we've succeeded, but we have never looked back.  This is who we are.

Last week, someone I greatly admire gave me an opportunity to grow as a writer.  But opportunities cost money, and though it was not as much as an acoustic Martin guitar, I was not sure I could afford it.  Not with four children, one income, and Christmas around the corner.  

Until last night, when my sweet husband sold one of his guitars, and gave me a way to say yes to the opportunity.

When I think back to my wedding day, I am struck by how naive I was.  I had no idea what lay ahead, how crushing and overwhelming life could be.  I didn't even know enough to know what to ask before I walked down the aisle.  Vows should really include things like:  when it would be easier to walk away, will you stay and keep talking?  When our lives are upside down, will you jump off a cliff with me?  Will you make sure there is room for both of us to fully be who we are?  And without me asking, will you know when I need you to sell a guitar?

Because it's not about the money, or the opportunity, or whatever you are doing in the moment.  It's about your spouse knowing when to say, "You can do this, I know it."  I didn't ask any of the right questions, but I always knew we would be like this.  That he would take risks with me, always pursue passions instead of the safe roads, always see the best in us.  I never doubted that he would support me, just as I supported him all of those years ago.  And though I had no idea how shockingly hard life can sometimes be, even back then, I always knew.

We are all in.  


  1. Oh my goodness. I love this. Stephanie, one of my favorite things about you is your ability to say SO much so succinctly. What a beautiful story. I read your ideas for real vows to David just now, and he agreed wholeheardly, as do I.

    1. Thank you Kendra! So glad you liked it!

  2. Replies
    1. It was an electric one. Not the Martin. =)

  3. So beautiful. Like The Gift of the Magi, but....real-er.

  4. Count us "all in" too. What a wonderful and unselfish act to purchase your sweetheart an awesome guitar. My husband played the guitar, bass, and banjo. He purchased an expensive banjo with gold trim and played it for many years. Then one day the Lord spoke to him to give it to a struggling pastor who also played the banjo. We never looked back. Thank you for sharing at "Tell Me a Story."

  5. My husband has been playing piano/organ since he was about 10. He's 54. He is teaching a number of kids, playing hymns/worship songs at a variety of places. He's a very smart man who could possibly gain a job other than where he works at our church as a facilities manager and these other music issues. He makes less money, by thousands, but he's happier than I could ever have imagined. And is so loved and blessed by so many. Sharing the Lord in one way or another is very important to him. Such a wonderful caregiver. So, I'm blessed to have him in my life. It's a good way to simply serve the Lord. AND bless you and your dear one. Makes a huge difference in our present-day world, prepping for heaven with/for many.



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