Late Saturday night...so late that it was actually the wee small hours of Sunday (around 1:00 a.m.)...I was experiencing what I call a bad night. These happen to me occasionally. I'm tired but too wound up to sleep and can't seem to turn off my thoughts. My thoughts lead me in anxious directions, and before you know it, I'm on the border of a full-blown anxiety attack.
This doesn't happen to me often, for which I'm very thankful, but when it does, it almost always seems to happen in those dark, wee smalls when no one else in the house is awake. It's often our family's difficult financial situation that triggers the anxiety, though strangely enough there's not usually an obvious "trigger" that trips me into the anxious zone. I have been through a lot of the biggies in recent months -- things I once thought I'd never survive well, like negotiating our debt and losing my health insurance. They were big things with ongoing challenging repercussions, and yet I seemed to weather them with at least little bits of grace.
No, weirdly, it's the little things that often trip me up. A few years ago, when we first began to realize we were in the crunch for the long haul, we started tightening our belts in all sorts of ways. I remember thinking through everything we could possibly give up that would help, and one of the conclusions I reached is that I should not buy body wash anymore. Now that probably seems silly, but body wash (the scented, silky kind you use in the shower) used to be something I really enjoyed using. But it had gotten expensive, often costing several dollars a bottle, and I knew we couldn't spend that kind of money for something so non-essential, so I stopped buying it and never looked back. I remember having a mild fit of panic, not so much over the loss, but over the realization that there were only so many "small things" left like that we could cut out -- and it still wasn't going to make a huge difference.
This time around, it was another silly little thing. On Friday night we had run some errands in a nearby town, buying some groceries and back to school supplies. Cash flow was tight and I found myself trying hard to make wise decisions about what to buy without processing anything out loud (which doesn't make for a fun family outing...and the sweet girl was already having a bit of an intense evening...W-Mart brings it out in her). We had agreed to stop by a local theater to find out if they were playing the theatrical re-issue of Singin' in the Rain this coming Wednesday. It's to celebrate the film's 60th anniversary and comes on the eve of Gene Kelly's 100th birthday. Singin' in the Rain is my favorite film of all time; I have always longed to see it on the big screen. D. and S. both love it too. I knew we had next to nothing to cover tickets, but I had also heard there might be a matinee, so I was hopeful. (We saw the classic Wizard of Oz on the big screen last year for $1 each!)
So I asked the woman at the ticket counter if they were bringing the movie. She told me yes and confirmed they had a matinee, which made my heart beat faster. Then she informed me that because it was a special event, there were no special matinee prices. And then added somewhat apologetically, perhaps seeing the look on my face, that the price was also higher than their normal ticket because it was a special showing. She then proceeded to quote a price that I knew we couldn't pay. We just didn't have it.
Walking out of that theater without tickets I actually had tears in my eyes. In the grand scheme of things, it was not, is not, a huge deal. It's a movie, for goodness' sake. We have given up lots of nights out over the years for the sake of living simpler lives and being able to have the freedom to keep doing things we love -- like have me working from home so I can homeschool the sweet girl, and having D. work multiple part-time jobs so we can all continue to minister to kids in our little town. And in the midst of all the stuff we've given up have also been all the times we've been utterly surprised and blessed by gifts that we didn't absolutely need but were so blessed by -- a case in point being two recent nights in a hotel near Lake Erie.
So this was not me crying poor us (well, okay, maybe it was a little at first). It's just that -- well, this is Singin' in the Rain. (I know I sound crazy, but stick with me.) I have loved it as long as I can remember because it has that wonderful way of affirming the joyousness of life in the midst of everything. The scene of dear Gene dancin' and singin' in the rain has, in a strange but delightful way, become an icon for me, especially during some of our leanest and most challenging years. Somehow I thought it seemed a little bit like serendipity that we'd have a chance to see it in the theater during the week we were celebrating the 15th anniversary of our move here. And instead, it ended up being just one more thing to let go of.
So there I was, in the wee small hours, feeling anxious because I couldn't buy movie tickets (it felt like the body wash all over again) and then feeling stupid and guilty to be sad about something so trivial in a world filled with so much real deprivation and pain. From there, I moved into full-blown anxiety over the fact that movie tickets are the least of our worries in the coming month -- we've got bills I don't know how we're going to pay. Once the enemy got hold of that stick, I was really getting beaten up. I ended up having to get up for a while, going to the bathroom to have a good cry (and reading time and prayer time). A very bad night before I surrendered it all to the Lord and headed back to bed for a few hours of sleep.
And then...oh joy...yesterday was a good day, and today was even better. Outwardly nothing has changed. My appliances are struggling (and at least one threatening to quit); we're having car problems; D broke another tooth; we still have bills we can't pay including one in a few weeks we truly can't default on. But you know what? Surrendering everything to the Lord, from tears over small hurts and losses to big anxiety over very real lack of resources, makes a difference. Because when things look ridiculously hard and lean, asking God to help you choose to dance in the rain is a good way to go.
So today instead of struggling, I let go again. I chose to remember the wondrous deeds of the Lord. Instead of stressing over lack of work, I ghostwrote a web article even though it didn't pay much. I enjoyed lesson planning for fall and a beautiful walk in the sunshine with my daughter. I overjoyed to her joy and enthusiasm over writing a letter to the new child we are sponsoring through Compassion, a girl in Haiti just her age (thank you, Compassion, for helping us make this connection)! I loved the beautiful picture she drew and painted to enclose in the letter. I slowed down and took the time to cook with the sweet girl -- we roasted fresh beets picked from our own little community garden plot and made homemade scalloped potatoes. And after dinner, all three of us sat on a blanket on the floor and celebrated our 15 years in this town with a miniature tea party complete with peppermint tea, tiny bread and butter slices, and tootsie rolls that rained down yesterday from a birthday pinata of a friend. Drinking tea made us feel veddy, veddy British (and veddy, veddy silly) so we popped in a travel video we'd gotten from the library and spent half an hour oohing and ahhing over the south of England. ("I have to live there," my ten year old said passionately, precisely echoing the way I've often felt. It must be genetic.)
So very thankful for this very good day.