I am a romantic at heart. I don’t mean flowers and candy romance, although a bouquet of daisies is always welcomed, but life in general has always seemed to me to be somewhat romantic. I can remember watching You’ve Got Mail with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks and fantasizing about someday living in New York, owning a book shop and walking to work with a cup of coffee in my hand, a large overcoat for the cold weather, and a short, funky haircut with blonde highlights. If I weren’t a bookshop owner, then perhaps I would have some other sort of important job, like an editor or journalist.
As I got older, I dreamed of different jobs and lifestyles, always in my sub-conscience where my ideas were protected from the real world. A writer in Seattle, a professor at some college with some amount of schooling behind my belt… always with a cup of coffee in my hand and a large overcoat with a red knit scarf covering my bare neck.
My dreams consisted of me and only me. I never imagined kids or a husband, not because I didn’t want kids and a husband, but because those were separate dreams that took place in the real consciousness of normal life. In reality, I very much dreamt of who my husband might be and what he was like, but for some reason, this is a very different dream than my romantic fantasies that belong in my sub-conscience.
To be honest, it is my romantic, idealistic persona that drives me and keeps me sane. One might think I am only setting myself up for disappointment, but I have learned that quite the opposite is true.
Most of the time.
While studying in undergraduate school I romanticized being a great student. At the beginning of each quarter, while each professor handed out their syllabus and voiced their expectations, I would secretly envision myself working diligently at a coffee shop with my laptop, writing a brilliant paper with my headphones in my ears, and a table full of books blocking me from the rest of the world. Actually, walk into Westwood on any given Sunday of Ninnth Week, and this is what you will find at Starbucks, Coffee Bean, Corner Bakery, and the other Starbucks down the street. What I did not envision, and what mostly happened, was cramming to type my bibliography the last ten minutes before the paper was due, or, even more often, begging one of my roommates to type it up as I struggled for the concluding sentences because I happened to get distracted at Starbucks and ran out of time. This was college for me.
I loved it.
I am still a romantic. Living in the “real world” has not jaded me, yet. I still have fantasies about living in the Northwest someday, and I certainly dream of going back to school for a degree or two more… of course I will have more discipline then.
While living in Hawaii and working as a youth director is not a part of the aforementioned fantasies, well, it’ll have to do I guess. Just kidding. I love my life – my husband, my job, Hawaii… I am very blessed.
But real life happens here too. 13 hour days once or twice a week are common. Marriage is hard sometimes. I’m not a terrific housekeeper. Kids complain. Parents raise their eyebrows. I feel inadequate most of the time. Our office looks like a barrack. Etc. Etc.
This is where the romance comes in. No overcoat or red knit scarf, but I do have a cup of coffee on the way to work (my fifty feet commute) and I have learned to make my job (and life in general) romantic. For instance, I love writing my lessons at a coffee shop, so once a week (or more) I drive to Morning Brew or Starbucks for a few hours and type out the week’s lesson. I dislike running, but we live at the beach so my friend Jessica and I run at the beach early in the morning, and sometimes I stay after to read my Bible and journal at the beach. I discovered the local craft store, invested in some paints and canvas, and paint once or twice a week to let my mind settle and focus on only the brush stroke and liquid color. I learned to bake bread so we don’t have to buy it at the grocery store. My husband and I drive to North Shore once or twice a month to keep our marriage alive and fresh. Cleaning the house is always more fun with music playing in the background…
I function between a tension of reality and romance. Reality is, well, real life, and romance adds beauty to the mess. Because while I am a romantic, I am fully aware that life is messy and that I myself am a mess. But hand me a cup of coffee and a scarf and then life makes sense. I think Jesus walks with me when I walk with my overcoat on and sit in coffee shops and paint with acrylic colors and run on the beach. I think Jesus hangs out in the mess too, and makes himself known in grungy, chaotic, helpless situations, but I think and hope that the Kingdom is near when we understand that life is good and our Maker knows us and loves our secret little fantasies. I am not underestimating the cost of discipleship or following Jesus or solidarity with the poor or whatever else is necessarily connected with loving God – because those have a definite place too – I am merely proposing that Jesus likes to give us life, and life to the fullest so that we can rest and be free to enjoy a good cup of coffee on a brisk, cool morning walk.