Write In Between

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Piano Lessons at Christmas

Once upon a time I prayed for a guitar for Christmas--actually it was more like praying and whining to my parents--about buying me a guitar. At age 10, it was a big deal. I'll always remember my first 6-string wrapped in a triangular box. Music lessons followed, my parents gambling on how long my musical devotion would last. Thirty-five years later, I'm still playing music and singing the song God placed in my heart. I am reminded of that memory when I look at our piano—another answer to another little girl's prayer several years ago.

After months of music lessons on an electronic keyboard, my daughter asked for a piano. "A real piano," she said. Having recently added my son to the music lesson schedule, well, the well had run dry in the musical financing department. Undaunted, my daughter saw no trouble in asking God for a piano. So, in the weeks before Christmas, as I sat with her to say her nightly prayers, she asked God for a piano. How could I not encourage such faith? But whoa! Real life on our street was no Miracle on 34th Street!

Days went by and she prayed. I did, wondering what the Lord might have in mind. I spoke to a friend who suggested I phone the man who tunes her piano, as he was also a reputable dealer in used pianos. What's the harm in placing a call, right? God might need a little help.

As I dialed, I'm thinking I must be out of my mind...The first question from the piano tuner was: "What's your budget?"
Ummm, well, see, uh, there really isn't any...
"Well, could you spend $500?"
Not without some serious consultation with my husband, the chief financial officer...
"Well, you never know, I'll keep you in mind... " Click.

The piano was in God’s hands so I began to shop for the things on my children’s Christmas wish lists. Then, a week before Christmas, the phone rings...

"Well, good morning to you, young lady..."
Uh, hello...
"I have your piano!" The piano tuner said with all the cheer of one of Santa's elves!
My piano...?"
Yes, and you can have it for free— you just pay to move it."
Move it?
"And you can have it delivered before Christmas!"
Slow down a minute... where, how?
"I'm doing some work for a church and there are two pianos available—one is being sold, and the other is coming to your house, if you can take delivery..." beamed the jolly elf.
Let me call my husband, he's not gonna believe this, but, I'll call you back!
Truly, it was an unexpected blessing. Hubby's only question was: "Where would we put it?"

Honestly, I didn't know what was more wonderful—that God had favorably answered the prayer of my little girl's heart—or the "gift" itself. Either way, we were doubly blessed that Christmas... especially when my husband had the amazing idea that we should hide the piano before Christmas morning and surprise our three children. You read that right... hide a 54-inch, 700 pound piano.

The piano—a 90-year old gem intact with original ivory and ebony keys—was delivered just four days before Christmas, while the kids were in school. My husband—the surprise guy—took some old painting tarps and shock cords and covered the whole thing up. He laid his tools nearby, muttering something to the children about some secret home-improvement-Christmas-gift project (a very believable tale if you know my husband.) Ahh, the innocence of children... the whole room is decorated, the tree is set up, and on the opposite wall is this huge, ugly, paint-splattered tarp, under which is the wall-unit-sized gift-in-the making. No one even peeked.

Christmas Eve, while all the children were asleep, Hubby and I unwrapped the tarps, placed a large red bow on the piano and positioned poinsettia plants all around it. Then we tiptoed upstairs, giggling and shaking our still astonished heads... a piano! Thank you, Lord!

Words fail to describe the joy of the moment when our children came bursting into our bedroom on Christmas morning—announcing that there was a piano downstairs! It's one of the fondest Christmas memories we'll ever have as parents.

The jolly elf, whose name is John, became our regular piano tuner and, together, he and I worked on cost-cutting ways to refurbish the aging white, piano and giving her a new finish.

The piano's years passed by, marking time with every recital. Countless hours of music filled our home as we listened to daily practice. The best part my dinnertime chores has always been cooking in the kitchen while be serenaded by one of my young musicians practicing in the next room.

Our piano brought years of joy to those who played and those who listened. And it taught us the lessons and blessings of Divine Providence as well:

--That discipline of practice for a recital performance has much the same goals as the Christian life. We spend much time practicing drills over and over again and trying to harmonize the dissonant notes. There are times of rigorous rehearsal, and there are times when the Lord would just have us sing out spontaneously in proportion to the joy or sorrows in our hearts...

--Every now and then, there would be composing—a unique composition—from the mind and heart of a young musician, teaching us that there is more in store if we yield to the Creator's inspirations...

--That material goods are to be shared by all—like this instrument—taking turns reflects charity...

--That with the changing seasons, some fine tuning, and occasionally, major repair is needed—to allow the instrument to regain its true voice. Much like our lives are brought back into tune with the Master's melody through reconciling grace.

--And finally, as we revel in listening to the growth of a child who memorizes a piece, interprets it, and makes it his own, we see and hear, all that the Father would have us do: to allow the Song of Songs—the Word made flesh—to find its song in us.

And so we come to this Christmas. In terms of Providence, more was in store for us.
On a recent morning, our beloved piano tuner, John, came to the house to re-tune our piano. We had recently moved it due to some remodeling. After which, the white piano was shown off in a better light, a focal point in the center of the living room.

As John tuned, I worked in another room, listening to his careful adjustments being made. I lifted a little prayer as I heard the now 97-year old piano strings groan in response to John's gentle coercion. After the tune-up, we discussed future improvements for the piano. John got a little twinkle in his eye as he said, "You're not gonna believe this, but I have just happen to have a beautiful white baby grand piano that would look gorgeous in this new room of yours!"

But we're not even looking for a new piano, let alone going from an upright to a grand...

Sometimes the blessings of providence come when we least expect them.

Our children, now teenagers, have grown into competent musicians who would truly benefit from an instrument upgrade--but the price would have to be within the range of feasibility. This would be pressing the family finances quite a bit, and we’re not the type of folks who make snap judgments involving money.

The next week my family and I drove to John's studio to look and listen to the piano. You should have heard those children giving us all a mini-concert! The sweet music made me weep inside. I think John--who often tunes our piano while they are at school--was blessed to hear how well the kids played--our old white piano at home had been well-loved!

Yeah, they are ready for a new piano... but are we?

Remarkably, there was no begging or whining or any such carrying on with our kids. They were happy with our current piano and didn't want to make such a large request of their parents. It was up to us to decide about such a purchase. We were really blessed by that.

We asked our daughter, since she had prayed the first piano into our home, what she wanted to do with our old piano if we chose to purchase this new one. Without hesitation, she said "give it away to music department at my school," which coincidentally, was searching for used practice pianos, "where it will be played every day and where I can visit it!" It was the perfect solution. So, we inquired about making the donation. We couldn't ask for any money for it--we were once blessed by it--and so the blessing must be passed on to others.

In the end, John got to reprise his role as Christmas elf, delivering a new white piano to the Gohn home in time for Christmas, for the second time in a decade. And while the baby grand piano was not a surprise this time around, it certainly was unexpected!

The piano movers came, first to move the old white piano to the school, and then to unload our new white piano in its place. The kids are playing it nonstop. The “baby” is the first, and perhaps the best material gift of Christmas in the Gohn household this year.

Still, it's hard not to miss the fact that another white piano is reminding us of another lesson about God's providence: that of another unexpected "Baby"-- who came to share our lives, sing our songs, and be a focal point in our home.

© 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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