Monday, May 19, 2008

Just Give Me a Good Cup of Coffee

by Nicole Seitz

Is there such a thing as good stress? If so, I think I'm under it. I'm winding down the promotion of my second book in as many years. I've just finished editing my third book and am staring down the barrel of a deadline for my fourth. This is my dream, right? Why is it that my hair is getting grayer and I'm feeling so tired, physically, emotionally?

I wonder if other authors feel overwhelmed a bit at times. Mind you, it's all good. A couple weeks ago, I traveled to Atlanta with fellow author Beth Webb Hart and had an amazing time talking books the whole time. I'm not kidding, two straight days of talking books interspersed with an event here or there. Good, good times.

Then last week, I had the great honor of doing the Baccalaureate address for the College of Charleston graduates. We were in this beautiful AME church in downtown Charleston where "Amens" abounded and fresh faces prepared to enter the world. A lovely time.

And just this past weekend, I spoke at the Conway Library and the next day at a Moveable Feast in Pawleys Island. In fact, my mother, stepfather, brother and sister-in-law were all there, watching, listening. It was a special time for me. I think it all has gone well--the people I've met, the encouragement they've given me. But even so, it is stressful--isn't it?--speaking in front of so many people, sharing your heart, exposing your soul, telling your story, over and over...

I've been annoyed with myself for not being able to remain 100% energetic. I'm still just happy to be here! But I suppose we all need a few days to regroup, even when we're living our dream. Right?

So I'm feeling tired and this morning, horror of horrors, there was no coffee in the house. Well, let's just say there was enough for one cup and my husband, the early bird, got the worm. So, after the kids and hubby were out the door, I donned my flip flops and headed to the nearest Bi-Lo.

There is a coffee station at this particular store where you can get a fresh cup and stroll about. But today, there were boxes everywhere. In fact, yes, it looked as if the coffee station had closed. Panicked and bleary-eyed I approached a girl behind the counter and asked if she could get me a cup of coffee. I'm sure my hair sticking up and puffy eyes tipped her off that this was indeed a coffee emergency.

"I can only do fresh-brewed," she said.
"That's all I want. Black," I answered, grateful that God was granting me this good favor.
The girl said that the coffee station was closing down. Just as long as I got my one cup of coffee, I thought. Lucky me.

Scratching through my wallet for the $1.86 I owed her, I found that I only had $1.72. This didn't faze her, and she reached into her tip cup and found the needed cents. What a nice girl, I thought. She said she didn't drink coffee but she understood how some people (meaning disheveled me) really needed it. This oddity, that she didn't drink coffee forced me to pipe up.

"You mean, you just wake up and go?" I asked. Which led to her sharing this phenomenal story with me.

The young woman who served me coffee, who shared some of her tip money for me, is twenty-three. She suffers from severe osteoporosis. When she was eight years old, she was diagnosed with brain cancer. The doctors gave her a year to live. She underwent sixteen long months of radiation and in that time, one night, two angels came to her and told her to "hang in there. God has good plans for your life." Her mother came in and heard her daughter talking to someone. She also heard someone talking back. Wow. Angels.

To this day, "Jennifer" is on lots of medication because the place where the tumor was on her brain does not make the things it should make. The doctors do not see any more cancer now and are stumped by it. They gave her a year to live. That was nearly fourteen years ago! Jennifer says she focuses on the good things. She's alive. "I'm just happy to be alive," she told me. Just like that. I shook her hand. I praised God for her. I felt like the biggest loser having so much in my life and feeling tired instead of simply happy to be here and happy to be alive.

Yes, I was feeling a bit peaked this morning after all the "good things" I've been involved with lately. I'm so embarrassed by it now. That cup of coffee this morning rejuvenated my soul. In my latest book, TROUBLE THE WATER, a Gullah elder, Blondell, serves another character, Honor, a cup of black coffee at her lowest point in her life. She'd tried to kill herself the day before but smelling that coffee, tasting it out of a chipped cup, makes Honor realize something so simple: she's just happy to be alive so she can drink that cup of coffee.

Just happy to be alive.

I believe in miracles. Our pastor was talking about them last night. Jennifer's mother calls her "her walking miracle." And this morning, meeting Jennifer was exactly what I needed. I suspect, whatever is going on in your life right now, hearing about Jennifer may be just what you needed too. God certainly does have good plans for Jennifer's life. And for mine. And for yours. Now let's get back to work and get busy with those plans. Every day is a gift.

Nicole Seitz is the author of TROUBLE THE WATER which is featured in this month's Southern Living Magazine and Charleston Magazine. She is also the author of THE SPIRIT OF SWEETGRASS, and her third book, A HUNDRED YEARS OF HAPPINESS, will be released in early 2009. Today, she is drinking lots of coffee and working on her next novel.
Nicole illustrates the covers for her books and is happiest when she is holding one of her two sweet children in her arms or is fully engaged in the act of writing or painting. Visit her at her website:


kimberly said...

What a lovely reminder that each day is what we make of it.

Crystal Joyce said...

This is very touching. I am currently in graduate school and I am constantly working on the computer as my two children are all around me, diverting my focus here and there, trying to get me to pay more attention to them. I am consistently stressed and reading this reminded me that I need to slow down and focus on my little things, my children that the Lord has blessed me with. Thank you, Nicole!