The other day, someone came into my office and asked me why I have an old typewriter in there.
I said, “My mom gave me that for my birthday back when I was in the sixth grade. She said I was a writer, so she wanted me to have a typewriter to help me do it right. I always appreciated it because it showed me how much she believed in me.”
That brought up another memory: the time in sixth grade I decided to write a book about hang gliding. After I finished the first two pages, I proudly brought them to you for your positive feedback.
You stood in the kitchen of our old rental house on Highway 11, read it quietly, and then looked up and said, “I like where you’re going with this, Joshua, but I’ve got a question: how much do you know about hang gliding?”
“Not much,” I said.
“Well, I want to make a suggestion,” you said. “Before you write about a topic, you might want to study it a little bit so that you’re not just guessing at what you’re writing about. I think it will make it a stronger piece.”
I was very disappointed, and I almost got choked up – apparently my story about hang gliding was not a masterpiece. Instead of moving forward with the hang gliding book, I started writing journals and kept it up throughout high school. And although I didn’t realize it at the time, in accordance with your advice, I was learning to study my own life.
By the time I was a freshman in college, my journal entries had developed into thoughts that weren’t just about me, but about the God you taught me to love. For example, on December 11, 1997, I wrote this:
“I think I can picture what God does in my life most clearly when I think of Him as the Great Piano Player. If you’ve ever listened to a performance or recording of a person playing the piano flawlessly, that is how I feel God can operate through me when I let Him.
God sits on the bench, flexes His fingers, and ever so gently begins to touch the keys. Sometimes the song increases in tempo. Sometimes the notes are softly whispered through the strings of the piano. Always, though, it is His hands that produce the song that flows through me – His piano.
Sometimes I try to become one of those fancy-looking pianos that can play all by itself. People admire me, polish me, and marvel. But there are only so many songs I can play on my own and soon, I am no longer the novelty I once was. No one admires; no one dusts me off – the beauty was only temporary.
Dusty and out of tune, I cry, ‘Great Piano Player, please come sit down and play a new song. I will be happy if only You will touch the keys and pedals once again. Tune me. Clean off all this dust. I need you again Great Piano Player.’
My life flows beautifully with the Great Piano Player’s hands back on the keys. I sound more pleasant, I feel more clean, and I am allowing the Great Piano Player to write a new song every day.”
One time when I was an adult, I told you that I had figured out what my absolute favorite music in the world was, and you said you thought you knew what it was. I didn’t believe you, but then you said, “It’s probably the sound of high-pitched tinkering on a piano.”
I was floored.
“How did you know that, Mom?”
You said, “Because when you were little, I would sit down at the piano at night and softly play little high-pitched melodies as you went to sleep. And I just figured it probably stayed with you.”
Those melodies did stay with me, Mom. They worked their way into my heart and onto the pages of journal entries, blog posts, and articles. And they found their way there, thanks in large part to a mother who believed I could write, edited my earliest work with honesty, and helped me see that the most worthy subject I could write about is the God who inspired her songs.
Happy Mother’s Day, Momma J.
I love you.