I noticed her immediately, seated alone in the breakfast area of the hotel we were staying in. She was a beautiful woman talking on her iPhone, her voice was smooth a silk, her blonde corkscrew hair spouted like gorgeous wheat from her head. This beauty wore cute zebra print leggings and a loose sweatshirt. Michael and I were visiting the Nashville area last weekend for a wedding and stayed in Murfreesboro. We started eating our breakfast at the small table beside hers and after she finished her phone conversation, I struck up one with her.
“So are you from around here or are you just visiting,” I asked.
“No, I’m actually from Atlanta. We’ve moved up here recently for work.” She continued, “But just last week there was a fire at our apartment and we lost everything. So we are lodging here temporarily ”
“Oh, my!” I responded.
She continued. “When they told us there was a fire three doors down, we didn’t think it was going to be such a big thing but the fire ran across the attic and they didn’t realize it until the roof went up in flames. People were yelling, ‘there’s a fire get out!’ We never got to go back in. The only thing we have left is what we walked out with. Luckily, I grabbed my car keys!”
While she was describing the event of losing it all, I couldn’t help but notice her countenance. She wasn’t troubled, defeated, depressed or even angry. She spoke a bit about her son’s recent birthday. He had valuable gift cards in his wallet. “Gone!” She continued, “Everything will need to be replaced, but I don’t even know what all we had! So I’ve been on the phone asking people who have been to our apartment to send me pictures they’ve taken. I’ve asked them, ‘Remember the time you took that picture and posted it on Facebook…Can you send it to me? I’ll need to see the things in the background so I can have them replaced one day through my insurance.'”
Then she recalled this request from her kids, when they first moved to Tennessee, she chuckled and told me they’d asked, “Hey, Mama can we get new beds?”
I told them, “Maybe one day.”
Then she lowered her chin, looked me in the eye with the sparkle she had in hers, tilted her head and said through laughter, “Well, now we’re all getting new beds!”
(Photo Credit: Tyler Armstrong)
I remember she calmly testified about God’s goodness and people’s tangible care:
- Folks from the church they had just begun to attend gave them helpful cash gifts.
- The same group from her church, gave them a Walmart gift card.
- The Red Cross were the first responders and took care of all the members of the apartment complex so well.
Even when she spoke about losing everything, she kept repeating, “BUT God’s good!’ What struck me was she would say it when she mentioned the loss and when mentioning any care, generosity, or provision. You see, it’s because God is good all the time.
This woman had nothing to testify other than,”God is good!” I asked if I could pray for her and we immediately bowed in prayer there in our breakfast seats. I thanked God for her life, her safety, her family and spoke His favor over her and declared how His goodness and mercy would follow her all the days of her life.
I sat and reflected on how she lost everything! Everything? No, not everything. You see, she had NOT lost her great attitude or her thankful heart. That could not be taken, stolen or even burned away. She is a beautiful, grateful woman who testifies to God’s goodness in the midst of hard things. She spoke only of God’s goodness in the hard things which truly ministered to me. I asked her if I could blog about her story and she said, “Sure!”
The following morning we saw one another again. We both milled around the breakfast area. It was bustling with multiple morning travelers, long-term dwellers and even a sports team all dressed in jerseys ready for their upcoming morning competition. We smiled at one another then struck up a brief conversation. She mentioned , “My children are excited to read your blog.”
I darted to my car, quickly snatched a copy of my book Lily Pads- Stories of God on Display and dashed back inside the hotel before she vanished. As I handed it to her I thanked her for telling me of the ways she had seen God on display in her own life. I quickly sat back down, “I want to dedicate this book to you, will you please spell your name for me?” I asked.
Sure, It’s Ulanda, U L A N D A, Ulanda!” She declared. I wrote a dedication and signed it quickly.
She smiled, “Thank you so much.” she said.
When I think of Ulanda I will think about how she is a beautiful woman who lives out one of my favorite verses. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT. “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
Ulanda lives this out, even when she seemed to lose everything, she didn’t loose her good attitude, joyful heart, the willingness to pray nor her ability to be thankful in all circumstances. Let’s all pray for these displaced people and live out the above verse, what have we got to lose?
*photos from the article in the paper about the apartment complex fire in Murfreesboro.