When you think of the perfect gift, what is one gift you’ve received as a result of the sacrifice of another? A friend asked me this question a few months ago. What about you? Have you ever received a gift that was perfect for you at that moment?
As we approach a season of thankful contemplation, I am sharing my story about my perfect gift as a way to express appreciation to my parents but also as a way to see how decisions that we make for others can carve out a path for them which God designed. I don’t quite understand how it all works, but I do understand that God has in mind good works that he wants us to accomplish and finish.
Ephesians 2:10 NLT states, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
Philippians 1:6 NLT states, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
Our gifting will develop from our Heavenly Father as we use the gifts that he places in our path.
Here’s my story of the purchase of a lifetime.
When I was 7 years old, my parents bought me a Wurlitzer upright piano in a brown wooden case. I had previously expressed an interest in music by playing a little piano for toddlers and picking out some songs like “Amazing Grace” so they wanted me to have music lessons and a piano on which I would practice.
They were recommended to a piano teacher in our town so I began lessons with her. Within the year, I had transitioned to my second piano teacher, Ms. Matthews. I took piano from her from the time I was in 2nd grade through 12th grade. As I would sit with my legs dangling from the bench in front of the black and white keys, I would play a few notes, make mistakes, learn from them, cry, get mad and try again. The courage it took to have one on one instruction with a meticulous and highly trained teacher, Ms. Matthews, provided me with an unmistakable expectation of excellence. I began to learn the value of how practicing skills would lead to increased confidence and growth as a musician. The concept of getting better and learning impacted every area of my life even to this day.
I asked my parents recently how they could have afforded our piano when I was a small child. My father worked out payments for it which were around $100 every two weeks in 1977. Paying $200 a month was a significant amount to pay at that time for my parents. They sacrificed buying other items and saving money so that they could pay for the $2200 piano.
Having the piano in our formal living room gave me a distinct setting to practice and learn musical skills. Sometimes, I would sing along and rehearse four verses and choruses of hymns and worship songs. On other days, I would memorize pages of classical music to play at group recitals which provided just the right amount of nervous tension with the thrill of reaching my goals. I would later lead our church choir, play piano for congregational singing at church, lead worship from the piano and accompany my school choirs. My love of music developed as a result of my parents providing the piano.
Music was my outlet to express my feelings as a teenager. Due to my musical ability, I earned several awards in high school. I was not drawn to sports, debate or acting. My thing was music. Because my parents sacrificed, I was able to have an instrument which occupied my time, keeping me away from people and things that would not have been good for me. Sitting on the faux black leather seat in front of the piano, I would raise my wrists to sometimes just play a song by ear and at other times, strictly read the sheet music. I loved that I could get better by practicing and that I could worship God through singing and playing notes on the piano.
I never had to clean the dishes after dinner while growing up because I needed to practice piano after dinner. My parents loved to hear me play. (I am an only child by the way!) I loved to not have to clean up and Ms. Matthews liked that I recorded my practice times in a little red book which she provided.
Practicing 30 minutes a day, five days a week, helped me build perseverance and a resilience when I had to receive Ms. Matthews’ correction and direction. I didn’t want to lie as a child who loved Jesus so I would only record the actual times that I had practiced. This attention to recording my practice times made me watch the clock carefully, relieved when 30 minutes had passed. I eventually would lose track of time as I got older, getting lost in perfecting measures and attending to the notes that Mrs. Matthews had written in the margins or on the music. She would have me memorize long classical pieces for our Spring Recitals at the UNC-Greensboro Alumni House which was a fancy place to gather friends and share music.
I still talk with my 92 year old piano teacher. Last December, she sent me her Christmas letter as she has done for decades and is still going strong. I believe that music has kept her mind sharp. I am thankful for her influence on my life and how she patiently worked with me as a small child. I know that God brought her into my life to be a childhood and teen teacher. It is a special honor to have always kept in touch with her and to get her annual Christmas letter. I loved it also when one summer I had one of my children play a memorized song for Ms. Matthews on her baby grand piano.
Today, the Wurlitzer piano sits in the same corner of my parents’ living room. My wedding portrait hangs above it. When I visit, I go in and try to always play the old church hymn called “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” which is my Dad’s favorite song. He also loves “Silver Bells” at Christmas time. My mother and I harmonize when she comes into the living room and I’m playing and singing a song from the brown hymnal from church or old choruses. I love that music has connected us in such deep and meaningful ways leading me to know and worship my Heavenly Father.
The Lord needed me to play piano in church from age 15 – 31 all because of my musical training and practicing that occurred at my piano. Once we moved away from my hometown after getting married, I began to worship in song mostly at the pew rather than from the piano. Once my husband and I had children, I sensed God wanting me to love on kids in the nursery and in Children’s Church so that their parents could worship in song and in the hearing of the gospel being preached. I sacrificed my time in the sanctuary of the church so that others could have an experience that they needed and I could bless others with a gift of time, love and teaching Bible stories. I love the music at our large church now, but will always treasure the years I spent doing church music.
My family has an upright digital piano which both daughters have used to learn to play piano. I am glad to have shared my love of music with both of my children and provide them with piano lessons from a local teacher who taught them throughout their lives. It all began, though, with the purchase of the Wurlitzer.
Is there something you could consider doing or buying for someone that could have a lifelong impact? Here’s my prayer for you:
You give us all things to enjoy. Good and perfect gifts come from you, the Father of Lights. I praise you for your Son and that he gave his life so we could be saved which was the perfect redemptive gift. You placed the sin of the world on him so that we would not have to face punishment for sin. By faith, I have accepted his free gift of salvation and look forward to forever being with you and not separated by sin. Help us to connect to you in prayer and confess our sins because you are faithful to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
I want to also thank you for providing people in our lives who love us and make sacrifices that make a long lasting impact. I ask that you open our eyes to not only thank those who have made such a difference in our lives, but to also look for opportunities to bless others with our words, time and actions. I thank you for the time that my parents gave to me to practice piano and ask that you help me encourage others to take the time to engage with tools that will ignite the passion that you’ve placed in them to do and be all that you envision. We need your help to use the resources that we’ve been given through your provision to build up and bless our families and those with whom you have us encounter. In Jesus’ name I pray.
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