Sometime very early in my life my dear parents realized there was music in my soul just waiting to get out. They observed as I 'played the piano' on the back of the car seat, the arm of a chair, a table - anywhere my imagination could create a piano. Then came the day we moved with my minister father to a sweet little bungalow parsonage where a piano was waiting in the living room. The piano belonged to the church and had been placed in our living room because a Sunday School class met there each Sunday morning and the piano was needed during that time. Ah-h-h, sweet delight! A piano. A real piano. In my home - all the time. And oh, what fun I had at that piano. I attended kindergarten each morning and soon after returning home I was at the piano where I hummed the first note of a song learned in class. While holding the first note of the song with my voice I hunted for the corresponding note on the keyboard. Once found I began to figure out how to play the melody and soon I was beginning to play little songs 'by ear'.
Our church had the most gifted pianist who just happened to also teach piano lessons in her home. I was enchanted with her skills during each church service and soon I began to pray (secretly, of course) each night in my bed, 'Lord, when I wake up tomorrow morning could I please play the piano just like Miss B?' Now I know what you're thinking - it doesn't come that easy. But my little girl mind didn't know better. I was sure if I prayed and believed it would happen. It would! Time moved on - and so did the big piano in the living room. I was moved next door into the church where it was needed for another group. Now my only chance to play a 'real' piano was to walk next door to the church and play my little heart out in the quiet of the big building. And I did exactly that. Often. Stepping out the back door of the parsonage I only had to walk a few steps to the back door of the church, into my father's study and out through another door onto the platform in the sanctuary. And believe me, I did that often.
My parents longed to give me piano lessons and soon it was discussed with Miss B who told them I could not begin lessons until I had completed first grade and started second grade. Her reasoning? I needed to learn to sit still and focus - and I needed to understand basic counting and arithmetic skills in order to capture the idea of counting out rhythm. My little heart was crushed. I had to wait! I was a bright child and I knew how to count and add a few numbers. And I was convinced if I tried very hard I could sit still. Honest I could!
Soon the day came that I had waited for so long. My first lesson with Miss B. I was absolutely thrilled as I began to learn to read the notes and play them on the piano. I still have my very first piano book and it always brings back the joy those early lessons added to my happy heart. Along with lessons comes practice. Daily practice. Remember, at this point there was no piano in my home. No problem - there was one right next door. A piano sitting unused much of the week. There was the answer. So each day after school I walked across the driveway into the big church building and sat at the piano on the platform to practice my lesson - every little song six times through. My father was usually in his study when I went next door to practice or, if he needed to be away, my mother went with me. What a good arrangement - until winter chill arrived and filled the big building. You see, there was no central heating in this church building. It was heated for services by a huge wood furnace in the basement. Someone had to start the fire long before service time in order to heat the large, old, uninsulated building. During the week when the building was not in use there was no heat! None. Except for the little pot-bellied wood stove in my father's study just off the platform. Oh, I forgot to tell you that we lived in a little town high in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon. Snow country. All winter! Now put together snow and freezing temperatures, an unheated building and a little girl's need to practice her piano lessons each afternoon and what do you get? Br-r-r!!! No problem. I wanted this so badly I was willing to sacrifice and do what I needed to do. So, through the winter months I would put on warm gloves just before I walked over to the church to practice. The gloves came off my little hands and I played until my hands were so cold I couldn't continue. Then I made a quick dash into my father's study where a warm fire awaited in the little stove. As I stood there warming I hands I had a few moments with my father. An added bonus! Then when my hands were warmed I ran back into the sanctuary to do more practice. This continued until I was finished each day. Practice for a bit, run to the wood stove to warm my hands, practice, warm hands and on and on it went.
My dear parents were dismayed and they were praying that somehow God would provide a piano at home for me. Now what I haven't told you yet is that God was already setting things in order. A wonderful little widow lady in our church was a piano dealer. She had continued the business after her husband died and she offered my parents a wonderful discount on a piano for me. Out of her love and respect for my father's ministry - plus the fact that I delighted her heart because she was raising four sons and she loved me much. She made an offer not to be refused. One day my dear mother went to the piano store and selected the perfect piano for me - and perfect for my mother's living room. The process wasn't that simple. The piano was chosen, the order was placed and I had to wait several weeks for the it to be shipped to our home. Oh, that was a long time to wait.
As long as I live I'll never forget the day my piano arrived! It arrived in a big wooden crate. A crate that wouldn't fit through the front door of our home. So the delivery men uncrated it and set it on the sidewalk while they, along with my father, removed the front door from it's hinges in order to get the piano into the living room. Now what would an eager seven-year-old do when the piano she has been waiting for is just sitting on the sidewalk? And the piano bench is sitting nearby? Play the piano on the sidewalk, of course! I put the bench in place, sat myself down and began to play what I had just learned and memorized in my lessons. I played the hymn 'Let The Lower Lights Be Burning'. Over and over again. My heart was delighted - my piano had arrived. It didn't matter that it needed to be tuned. It didn't matter that it was on the sidewalk and the whole world could hear me play. Nothing matter at that moment. It was just me - and my piano.
The years moved along rather quickly and suddenly, it seemed, I was planning my wedding. During that time my parents asked what I wanted for a wedding gift. Was there something special they could give me? Yes, I wanted my piano. Why should I need to ask? Neither of them played. All of my years growing up with my piano my father had lovingly told me that when a young man asked me to marry him someday I needed to ask him if he would buy me a piano. If his answer was yes, I could marry him; if not, I should say no and keep waiting for someone else who would include a piano in 'the deal'! But now I was going to marry a young man who could not provide a piano in the foreseeable future. We would be living several hours from my parents' home and it nearly broke my heart to think of not taking my piano with me. There was much discussion about the piano being my wedding gift but in the end the piano moved with me when I moved to my first home with my sweetheart. My piano and I have travelled many miles together through the years. We have lived together in several homes in different parts of Oregon. But we have been together. Always together. In the early years of our marriage I told my sweetheart, 'If the house catches fire, you get the piano out - I'll get the children!'
Did I forget to tell you that the day my piano arrived on the sidewalk outside my home so many years ago was the day before Thanksgiving? So that's why today I celebrate the 'birthday' of my piano. Every year I quietly say happy birthday to this dear friend and I spend just a little quiet time alone with my piano. What do I play each year? A number of songs but always among them you will hear the melody of that old hymn played so long ago on the sidewalk of my youth. If you wander by my house sometime today you just might hear 'Let The Lower Lights Be Burning'. And if you listen very carefully you may hear me humming, too.
(Would you pray for my dear son today as he and eight other members of a team from his church fly to Cambodia where they will build a church? They will be gone for ten days.)