Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
with the lyre and the sound of melody!
While you read this, you should listen to this music because it’s just the perfect soundtrack.
When I was a teenager, after having been a pianist since I was four years old, I became intrigued with the harp. I think it was in 2000 that I began taking harp lessons, and my father shortly thereafter surprised me by buying me my very own gorgeous pedal harp. A Camac Athena with an extended soundboard (for anyone who cares ), a honey color, matching my hair and my complexion. I love this thing. It’s gorgeous and healing and splendid. Once I played well enough, I joined a local youth symphony as their principal harpist (although I quickly became too old to remain in it), and did hired gigs every now & then to make a little bit of money. I continued taking lessons until college kept me too busy (ironic, considering I was a music major), and my poor beautiful harp gathered dust under her maroon dust cover. She still stood gallantly in the corner of my family room, and she went unplayed, untuned, some could even say unloved. For years.
I finally started getting back into it after I was married, playing occasionally for church, and even for a friend’s wedding.
This last year, I decided I wanted to make a concerted effort to get back into playing music more diligently. I started with piano. Every evening. For a minimum of thirty minutes. I have slowly started incorporating harp back into my routine, at least a few days a week. My fingers are getting good callouses again, and I am learning to keep my fingernails trimmed appropriately. At our new church (we’ve been there for nearly a year now!), there are two other harpists, and they have gladly inspired me to get back into harping. They are at two ends of the spectrum: one plays only lever harps, is self-taught, and prefers non-Classical music; the other plays any and all harps, has been professionally taught since she was six years old, has studied under some of the best harpists in this generation all over the world, makes a living as a professional harpist, and plays anything under the sun. They both encourage me by their music and their examples, and whether they are trying to or not, they have watered the seed of desire in my soul to increase my skill on the harp as well as broaden my sights ~ what kind of harp, what kind of music, whether I am professionally instructed or self-exhorted…
It has been gloriously fun to fall in love with harp again.
But then came a dilemma: I can not take my harp anywhere. I don’t have a vehicle anymore that it fits in. Sure, I could still borrow my dad’s old (I’m tempted to call it “beat up” but I don’t want to be crude! ) Suburban, take the seats out of it, and haul my 6’2″ tall and 71lb instrument places to share music with others. But it’s not all that realistic, at least not with any kind of frequency.
So about two months ago (it was actually right before Christmas that I started with the desire, but only in mid-January to early-February that I started legitimately looking), I began the search for another instrument. A new harp.
I almost wanted to just buy anything that I could get the soonest. Wasn’t sure I wanted to be discerning about maker or model. Figured since I am no professional, it doesn’t matter if I compare harps a lot or play something before I buy it, because to my amateur ears & fingers, a harp is a harp is a harp. Right?
Well, my harpist friends didn’t really agree.
After some fun discussions and more than my fair share of online searches, I became convinced that I was looking primarily for a certain make (Dusty Strings) and model (Allegro 26). I came up with a budget (and harps are not cheap, let me tell you), that I figured was reasonable… and while my professional harpist friend lead me to think I might have to wait quite a while to find something within my budget that was not a total beater, I knew that if I were supposed to have this harp and keep this budget, the Lord would provide.
And honestly, I figured I would be waiting many months. In my head, I was kind of hoping I could find one by Christmas.
Then yesterday happened.
I found a listing online (through a magazine called Harp Column, which is snazzy) for the exact harp I was looking for. But I am in Washington state, and this harp was in Florida. But I contacted the seller, we emailed back & forth, we spoke on the phone for a while. And she was asking one hundred dollars less than I was hoping to pay, and said if I gave her $100 for shipping, we would call it even, regardless of what shipping would end up costing (and it seemed, from preliminary glances, that shipping would be anywhere from $75 to $300). I told her that I would pray about it, talk to my husband about it, and get back to her. She said she had two other interested buyers, but that she would put them both off for another day, and wait for my decision.
I spent a while yesterday praying about it, and dreaming about it, and getting excited about the opportunity to have a harp that I could actually fit in the back of my SUV, could take places to share with people, could play at church, could use for a blessing for others and not just myself. And I forwarded all the information, including pictures, to my local professional harpist friend. She was excited for me! So excited, in fact, that she called someone locally here who owns an Allegro harp (the type that I was hoping to buy from Florida), to ask if I could stop by and play hers before I committed to having one shipped to me from the farthest corner of the country. And then a funny thing happened: the lady said, “funny you should call about it, because I was just thinking how I haven’t had time to play my harp in so long, and maybe I should just sell it. Maybe your friend would just like to buy mine.” So I got the woman’s phone number and gave her a call. But she didn’t answer. I left a message. I didn’t know if she was really serious, and half expected her never to call back.
My husband eventually got home, and we talked about harps. We talked about using our money wisely, and what I would do with having two harps (in addition to my baby grand piano, a set of handbells, and an Irish hand drum – not to mention a couple of penny whistles my parents brought from Ireland, and two different sized guitars in the house) to make it not ridiculous to spend the time and money and space on a new little harp. Suddenly, it was time to let the woman in Florida know my decision. I so much wanted to say yes, and just have her ship it on out to me so that I knew there was a guarantee of something in my budget coming my way that I could use to encourage my own soul and to bless the souls of others around me!
And yet, we decided to say no.
It felt almost counterintuitive to decline the harp from Florida, when it was the exact harp I was looking for, and exactly in the budget I had come up with.
We got in the car to head to church for a Lenten dinner and service.
On the 50 minute drive last evening, I was feeling a sense of sadness. Peaceful though. I knew that if God wanted me to have another harp, He would make it excessively clear. So saying no thank you to that harp made me sad, but the Lord gave me peace. When (if ever) it was the right harp and the right time, we would know. And my husband, honestly, did not feel all that comfortable with buying something three thousand miles away, and having a perilous journey for the delicate instrument outside our control, never having been able to play it or hear it before spending the money and making the commitment.
So was said no, but were very grateful for the woman’s time spent with me. And I told her that I hoped one of the other two interested people would pan out quickly for her.
And then, just before we pulled into our church’s parking lot, my phone rang.
It was the local woman with the same little harp!
While my husband gathered our things and went in to the church building, I talked to her. A sweet, older sounding lady who was very chatty. And she invited me to come to her home, which is only about thirty minutes from mine, to meet her and play her harp.
So after church this coming Sunday, I have a date with this woman and her Allegro… and if I fall in love with her harp, as she said she is sure I will, I might come home with it that very day. I told her that since this all came up so suddenly, and it’s not like she was actively looking for a buyer and trying to sell her harp, that if she wanted me not to bring my checkbook but just to come visit and talk together, I was happy to move more slowly. And she assured me that either way, she was comfortable. She said I sounded lovely, and that any friend of my professional harpist friend would make a good home for her beloved little Allegro, and she felt at peace with saying that she could say goodbye to it even as soon as this Sunday.
So I don’t know what will happen for sure. But I do know that this wee saga encouraged me, once again, that God knows all the desires of my heart, and He does not let any detail past His control. Right down to the timing of me needing to say no to a harp on the East Coast just forty-five minutes before the phone rang with a possible yes to a harp practically right here in my own backyard. And how much would the harp locally cost? My budgeted amount exactly, right down to the dollar.
Once Sunday comes and goes, I will share the ending to this story. Or maybe it will simply be the beginning of another story.
Maybe my beautiful Athena is about to get a sweet little sister called Allegro. And if so, I will share pictures of my harps with you.
Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre;
make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!