Lesa Knollenberg
freelance writer in
madison, wi

Of Grace & Guitars



I was asked to sing in a wedding recently. Play guitar, too. I was honored beyond belief, as the bride is pretty special to me. When she first asked me, I flustered through the initial conversation and told her I would think about it. She was gracious and gave me a concrete way out, but this felt like something that should be thought over.

After a weekend of consternation, I decided to say yes. Mostly because of that bride, my niece. But I also knew that the only thing holding me back came down to one word. Actually, a hyphenated word, so it’s even more intimidating: self-conscious. I couldn’t turn down a big life experience because of a hyphenated word.

I’ve become terribly self-conscious. It has become worse over the years, and sometimes I can’t believe I’m the same person that gave an impassioned election speech to my high school class of 700, or spoke to thousands at a youth rally. Playing the guitar and singing in front of a church was once a regular occurrence; now I sometimes have trouble with small talk at the grocery store. I’m sure it has something to do with my hours upon hours of being alone (one of the pitfalls of being a writer) or maybe it’s what wisdom leaves in its wake.

I didn’t want to look back and regret a decision based on fear, so I pulled on my Brene Brown ‘Dare Greatly’ resolve and told my niece I’d be honored to sing. She chose the music, I downloaded the chords, and practice began.

Except a few things have changed since I last performed. For one, I need reading glasses to see the music now. Not that I’m comparing, but does Beyonce wear readers on stage? And the next roadblock is a little more delicate: with the guitar on my lap, my chest doesn’t exactly sit atop the curve of the guitar like it once did. It took a little maneuvering to get it right, but I learned to get comfortable with my new constraints. Not that anybody else would notice, but it’s a new paradigm shift that is a tangible marker of time.

The day of the wedding came and I sang and strummed. I read the little notes I had written to myself on the sheet music to remind me that it wasn’t about me, it was about faith. I reminded myself that the music was for my beautiful niece and I was just a backdrop to her joy. It wasn’t perfect, but it was done with love, and that’s all my bride really wanted. She’s a good girl, marrying a good man, and I wish for them a grace-filled life. And if her niece ever asks her to help with her wedding, I wish for her a measure of courage, a lovely song, and a really good support bra.