It was the fall of 1976. My fourth grade class and our whole country was celebrating America’s 200th year as a free country, with streamers and fanfare lining our school hallways. But my world, as a brokenhearted little girl whose parents had just divorced, was falling apart. On top of that, my parents had rolled our old upright piano into the back yard and burned it, saying it was beyond repair. From my perspective, they were throwing away everything that was dear to me: two parents who once committed their love to each other, and my greatest passion and treasure: my piano and the music I created with it.I cried for weeks. I’d played that piano since I was in diapers, literally. I’d never heard the word “therapy”, as a nine-year-old, but my piano was definitely therapeutic for me — and for others around me. I had just performed in my very first school talent show the previous spring (only weeks before my dad moved out), and the entire student body gave me a standing ovation. My music teacher, Mrs. Ewing, was my biggest fan. She let me play for the class on a weekly basis, and told me I had “perfect pitch”. Even though I didn’t know what that was, I figured it must be good, because Mrs. Ewing was very proud of me when she said I had it!
The day I came to school sobbing, though, Mrs. Ewing listened with compassion as I told her about my piano being burned. She hugged me and grieved with me. She knew how much playing the piano meant to me.
She then did something that teachers probably couldn’t do today, at least for a fourth-grader.
Mrs. Ewing allowed me to come into her classroom every day after lunch to play the piano. Other students rushed to eat so they could go out to recess to play. I ate quickly so that I could go to the music room… to play the piano. I didn’t even turn the light on — there was plenty of light from the windows, where I watched the other children playing chase, kickball and tether ball. I played, I sang, I cried, I grieved, I healed, I wrote my first songs — all beginning in that music classroom, all by myself. No one else was allowed to be in there but me. Mrs. Ewing said so.
My teacher honored me and believed in me. She planted seeds of purpose and hope into my life during a dark time. I am forever in her debt for that!My music teacher believed in me, planting seeds of purpose & hope in a dark time. #thearchitectsdaughterbook Click To Tweet
For the next two years, continuing through sixth grade, I would usually play the piano during recess time. Eventually, an instrumental music teacher came during that time to teach violin and viola lessons to a few of us, including myself. During the fifth grade, I sang my first solo in the school play (and had a large acting part) as the angel of Johnny Appleseed. The line of the song that sticks in my memory was, “I want you to spread apple seeds and the Word of God… throughout the land…”
I was not a Christian (yet) when I sang that song, and didn’t really know what the lyrics meant until years later. But even then, I knew that the angel was showing Johnny his purpose in life. I wondered…. what was my purpose? Did the God who created apple trees and human beings have a purpose for an insecure little girl, like he did for Johnny Appleseed? God used music to begin showing me. He used my music teacher (and many other teachers, and my grandmother Lucille) to reinforce God’s gifting that they saw in me. My parents were very proud of me, too, of course, and hearing my mother sing and watching her play piano all my life stirred my passion all the more. My mom eventually bought an organ, so I began to play it, stretching my legs to reach the pedals. They each planted seeds of purpose and hope and a sense of destiny into my life, even though they probably didn’t realize the impact of their encouragement.
My husband is quite the gardener, and we never lack for fresh vegetables during the summer. However, we noticed a “volunteer squash” growing in the front yard, where he’d actually planted azaleas. Apparently the mulch he’d used in the soil had old seeds in it, so they’ve now taken over what we thought would be colorful shrubs.
A man named Gideon lived as a slave to the ancient Midianites, as he waited and prayed for God’s deliverance. In the book of Judges 6:12, it reads:
“When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
Gideon was terrified of his oppressors, as were most of his Israelite kinsmen. But God saw the future, and what He had planned for Gideon. Through His miraculous help and intervention, Gideon became that “mighty man of valor” (as the King James Version described him) that God destined him to be, and was used to drive out the enemy and deliver his people.
Question & Challenge: Can you think of a situation when someone’s words of encouragement made a difference in your life? Please share in the comments below. Pray and determine today, with God’s help, to use your words and actions of encouragement and compassion to “plant seeds of purpose” into someone’s life. We may rarely see the fruit of our labor, but it most certainly will make a difference.