Missionary Diary: Another day that doesn't go to plan

Jennifer Grocott and her husband Adi are missionaries with European Christian Mission (ECM) in Timisoara, in western Romania, where they live with their two children, Anna and Luca. Their aim is to equip local Christians to share the gospel of Jesus with the children of Romania.

I look at my watch, it’s 11:47pm. Coughing and crying rouses me before I have even managed to get to sleep for the night. I drag myself from my bed and find my four-year-old son in tears. In between barking coughs, he cries, “Help me.” He’s only been back to school two days and he’s already picked up the latest cold or flu going around. I crawl into bed next to him and comfort him back to sleep, knowing it is going to be a long night. Lying there I can’t stop myself from thinking, “Okay, what am I going to do now? This means that Luca will need to stay home from preschool. Now how am I going to do all the things I planned?”

You would think with all the uncertainty and changes over these last two years I would have become more adaptable, more flexible. I would have become more gracious over time about needing to change plans at the last minute, as is so often the case here in Romania. Some days I am, but on other days, fatigue and frustration collide and it isn’t pretty for anyone. These are the days that I’m more Martha than Mary, running around trying to do everything, complaining that others aren’t pulling their weight. I try to stop and remember Jesus’ words, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one.” (Luke 10:41-42)

Christian maturity is not seen in how perfect you are, but how quickly you run to God for help.

I am thankful for my monthly counselling sessions which are helping me to stop, reflect and pray, rather than my default of pushing through, mindlessly, until I crack. I pause and think about what the priorities of the day really are. Does that email to the Sunday school teachers have to be written this morning? Do I really need to call the doctor right now? Does that load of washing need to be put on immediately? Yes, the doctor’s appointment needs to be made as soon as possible, but no, that email is not urgent, it can wait until this afternoon. Yes, the wet bedsheets from last night need to be washed, but not right now. Getting the kids medicated, fed and settled into the day needs to come first.

It may sound trivial or unnecessary to some people to need to go through this mental process but prioritising the important over the urgent has always been a struggle for me. The absence of routine and last-minute changes to my plans messes with my head. When we had a more predictable routine, even with the last-minute changes here and there that are all too common to life in Romania, I found myself able to cope better, adjust more easily. But now, when uncertainty, last-minute changes and cancellations are the rule, rather than the exception, I find that I grind through the gears rather than shifting seamlessly. I need to discipline myself to stop, reflect and pray, “God, help me know what I should be doing now.” If not, I run around all day like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off, crashing into anyone who comes onto my path.

The Grocott kids, Anna and Luca

The Grocott kids, Anna and Luca

I reorder my day, reassess my expectations of how much I can get done and make a new, looser plan for the day. I thank God that his blessings are new every morning and that no matter the mistakes I have made so far in the day, I can always stop and repent, ask for forgiveness from those whom I have hurt and pray to do better next time. Things start to run smoother, but it’s not failproof. I need to repeat my ‘help me’ prayer all throughout the day.

But that is the other thing I have been learning, I’ll never get this completely right, I can’t do this on my own. I need God’s grace, Christ’s leading, the Holy Spirit’s power, each moment of every day. I’ll never forget the words of a fellow missionary, “Christian maturity is not seen in how perfect you are, but how quickly you run to God for help.”

I make it to the end of the day. While I didn’t get all the things ‘done’ that I had planned to do the day before, I remind myself that not every day is like this and that there will be the rare days that do ‘go to plan’. But until I’m taken home to be with my Saviour, I must keep working on not basing my peace and contentment on everything falling into place the way I want it to or completing every task I have set. I need to base my peace and contentment on my identity in Christ, what he has done for me and the righteousness that I can only have through him.