Linda Gulbe – Smiltene, Latvia
I grew up in Smiltene, Latvia, but then moved away after school to do a gap year in the UK with a New Frontiers church. I ended up staying in the UK for nine years, before moving to New Zealand and then back to the UK. However, in April 2021, I returned to Latvia.
My move back to Latvia was due to my mum becoming ill and then (sadly) passing away in July of last year. You cannot prepare for grief, you just have to hope that the waves of it won’t knock you down completely and that you are not standing alone in it.
During this season, it has been difficult for me to see everyone else carry on with life as normal, whilst knowing that everything has changed for me. My return to Latvia meant that I had to start afresh without friends, church or job. It felt unfair and I was angry and disappointed with God at times. I sometimes felt guilty about missing my life in the UK because of all the changes I was now going through; but I know it is normal to be sad about it. I am grieving my mum, but also my life before my mum became ill; and it is OK to feel that.
Having the Covid lockdowns in 2021 actually helped me in the sense that I was still able to connect online with my UK church and feel part of it and also to connect with my UK ‘family’ and friends. My feelings of isolation were shared by many due to the ongoing lockdowns. It has been isolating at times, not having friends around here, but God has been so good in the midst of it all. I have reconnected with one of my cousins, and it’s so beautiful to see how much we are able to encourage and support each other at the moment. Also, there are one or two other people that I have been meeting up with, to talk to and to pray with.
Psalm 23 is my favourite psalm but this past year I’ve understood it differently, despite knowing it by heart for more than 25 years. Also, the psalm has an extra special meaning for me now as my mum taught me this psalm and we used to say it together a lot as a prayer.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Ps 23:1-3)
In times when we feel that we have been left alone, we are faced with a choice. Will you become resentful and angry or will you lean harder upon Jesus? I have tried my best to do the latter, understanding that staying angry doesn’t really help.
On the first anniversary of my mum’s promotion to glory, I had a chance to talk to a friend’s mum who was going through cancer treatment and I had the opportunity to encourage her and to pray for her. I had been wanting to do this for a while but God picked the very best day to bring us ‘randomly’ together. It’s moments like this that God is able to fill us with joy, despite the sadness of my mum’s anniversary.
I did not see the big miracle of my mum being healed but I have seen so many ‘little’ miracles of God showing up, showing that He is listening and that He is near and is carrying me through this challenging season – where the living water has not stopped flowing and all I have to do is just reach out and drink from it.