by Traci Jahnke
I started taking piano lessons in the 3rd grade. We didn’t have a piano (just a small play organ), but I wanted so bad to play and learn. So, I skipped morning recess and lunch recess and practiced on the school piano. My mom set up that possibility for me, but no one forced me to stay in and practice. I don’t say that to give myself a pat on the back, but to point to the hand of God on my heart. Because at 8 and 9 years of age, that desire had to come from somewhere besides myself.
I will never forget one of the most memorable gifts (maybe THE most memorable) I received from my mom and dad. I got home from school and my dad was still at home, sitting at the kitchen table. Usually, he would have been gone to work by then, since he worked the second shift at his job. So, I was confused that he was still at home and there was just silence. No one spoke. I got a weird feeling that something was up. And THEN. I glanced behind my dad’s head into the front living room. A PIANO. I couldn’t breathe. I felt like crying. I didn’t know what to say. I am sure I didn’t say, “Thank you”. It seemed like such a BIG gift to a little girl. I am pretty sure my dad asked me to play a song on it before he left for work. When I look back, I hope my parents weren’t disappointed in my reaction. It is one of my most special memories and treasured gifts.
That piano started my love for music, which began a love for worship. My first piano teacher, Sister Francis, assigned me hymns and church music in my first year of lessons. And then next thing I knew, I was playing the organ during weekday masses for my Catholic school. I don’t remember being asked if I wanted to (or if she asked my parents). Then I started playing for summer weekday masses, and finally graduated to playing for Sunday masses while still in grade school. After that, came weddings and funerals. By the way, I still play for that same Catholic church. It has been 40 years now and I have no regrets.
My heart was changed through hymns and church music. I was worshiping God while I was playing. I was helping other people worship God while I was playing. I sensed an intimate presence with God during music. In high school, I was active in chorus, through singing and piano accompaniment. After high school, I was involved in the church choir. At the Baptist church I am a member of now, I play the keyboard for worship services.
Trust me, I am not a professional concert pianist. But God gave me some talent and gave me a desire. My mom and dad helped that desire and determination to flourish, with the lessons, support, and the piano. God used all of this to create a heart of worship in me. It is a part of me – singing in the car, singing in my head at work, or sitting at the piano alone at home, to play and sing.
Ultimately, the piano belonged to our family and my sister played the piano, as well. When I was married and got a house, mom and dad offered to give it me, which in many ways, was like a second gift. For God continued the gift: my girls grew up with the piano in the house. We would sit together and sings songs or I would play while they were going to sleep. My daughters all have a heart for worship as well, and have used those gifts in God’s church. That piano is still in my house today.
While this is definitely a “thank you” to my mom and dad for being a part of God’s work in my life in music, it is also a reminder to watch. See where God may be lighting a fire in your son or daughter or spouse or friend. Encourage that gift or interest, and see what God will do with it!