Hey Friends! I’m completely overjoyed to share with you that today’s post is from a guest writer, Legon Craighead. Legon has a Master’s in Social Work and works in Jackson, TN with a local nonprofit. Legon and I met while serving as summer missionaries in college and she has been one of my dearest friends for nearly 7 years now. Legon is such a faithful woman of God and I’ve been blessed to watch her faith in the Lord grow over the years. We share a love for hammocks, South America, snow cones, yard sales and as you’ll learn through her words today… we both have a huge heart for Maine. If you enjoy Legon’s story and want to follow her on twitter you can find her @legon_craighead. Be prepared for your feed to be filled with Duke Basketball! Without further ado, here is Legon’s story of the freedom she has found through God’s sufficient grace.
The heavy breathing would start, my palms started sweating, the desire to be nowhere near a vehicle threatened to keep me rooted in my place. And the tears. Always the silent kind that I didn’t want anyone to see. No one could see because that would make me weak.
Breathe, Legon. Just breathe.
“Your grace is sufficient … Your grace is sufficient … Your grace is sufficient …” Just keep repeating it. “Your grace is sufficient …”
That sequence of events was a daily occurrence in my life for a year after June 16, 2010. That was the day that changed my entire life.
For those of you who don’t know my story, I’m going to start a little bit before that day so it all comes together …
I grew up in a family who loved Jesus. Believing that God was good came as easily as breathing for me – I never questioned it. I came to know Christ at 15 years old at FCA Leadership Camp and my life was forever changed. I knew that meant that my life was to be an example to those who were around me who were not following Christ and at times that was a lonely experience as a high school student. Yet, however lonely those years were, I trusted that God was faithful … and He was. He provided beyond my wildest dreams and allowed me to attend Union University starting in the fall of 2008. My freshman year at Union was fantastic. I loved my classes, made friends, and experienced my first mission trip to Boston, Massachusetts – an experience that I will never forget that ignited a passion in my heart for New England and for missions.
During the summer between my freshman and sophomore years at Union, I planned to do Tennessee Baptist Convention summer missions. After going to Boston, I thought that I wanted to do New England Travel Teams, but when I got into the interview process, the Lord made it clear that I was supposed to do Tennessee Travel Teams – and I could not be more grateful that He did. When I look at my life right now, nearly every relationship that is a part of my life is a result of that summer somehow. God used that summer to encourage my heart for missions and to surround me with a community of friends like I had never known before. It was an incredible summer.
My sophomore year was full of growing closer to the people who I met through my summer missions experience at the BCM at Jackson State. One of those people was Casey Williams (now Grooms). She had a heart for Maine and since I already loved Boston, we connected and through that connection I knew I wanted to go to Maine for the summer – and that’s where the Lord sent me. I was going to be a part of a New England Travel Team and I was super excited! As a travel team, our role was to travel around the states of Maine and New Hampshire working with churches and serving in whatever capacity they needed us to. That was perfect for a girl who loved Jesus, loved to travel and who loved New England!
As May 30 approached, my excitement continued to build. My team seemed like it would be a great fit. I was serving with Leah, who I knew from the BCM, Justin, and Palmer. When we arrived in Boston for training, I grew even more confident that the Lord was going to do great things through my team that summer and in my own life personally. Throughout our first week of ministry then into our second, the Lord revealed Himself in new ways and stretched our comfort zones beyond what I thought was possible. After finishing up at Bike Week in Laconia, New Hampshire, our team was ready for a hot shower, a night of sleeping in a real bed, and a day of rest before heading to our next assignment.
That day was Wednesday, June 16, 2010.
On our way back “home” to our base church with our supervisor, Marilyn, we were in a car accident. The accident was very serious and unfortunately, Palmer did not survive. I can remember waking up on the couch in Leah’s hospital room the next morning just praying that I was dreaming because there was no way that this was happening … we were summer missionaries. We were doing what God had called us to. Why did this happen? What was I supposed to do now? How does one process something like this 2,000 miles away from family and friends?
I remember leaving the hospital that day with Joyce, an awesome lady from SouthCoast that was taking me to Marilyn’s house so I could shower and sleep. It was when I arrived at Marilyn’s house that I turned my phone on for the first time and I was completely overwhelmed. Text message after text message with voicemail after voicemail was delivered and I didn’t know what to do. I called my mom to assure her that I was physically okay – not that it helped a terrified mom 2,000 miles away from her child, but that was all I could do. I then called my friend Lauren and wept for what I’m pretty sure was the first time in my life. I am not sure that Lauren knew what she was getting into when she answered the phone, but I am so grateful that she did. She was one of my closest friends at Union and a clear mark of God’s unfolding plan. She listened to me cry then we hung up so I could take a shower. When I took of my sweatshirt (the same one that I was wearing during the accident), glass shards went everywhere and if the situation wasn’t real before, it certainly was then. There was no going back – my life was never going to be the same.
In the days that followed the accident, my Facebook wall was filled with prayers and love. My phone was constantly buzzing with people letting me know that they were praying for me. My response was always filled with the things I was supposed to say … “God is still good …” … “God has a plan …” … all true things, but it was a long time before I really fully believed those things. I felt guilty because Palmer had died and I didn’t. I was confused and honestly, I was angry. I couldn’t understand why it had to be our team. What was it about our team that caused this to happen?
One night later in the summer, I had a conversation with a friend I’m sure I will never forget. Scott, who was one of Palmer’s best friends and was also serving in Maine, and I were having a conversation on the front porch of the Webb’s house. We were talking about the accident and where we were with it all. Scott said that he was reading the book of Job and mentioned the part of the story where Satan has to go to God to get permission to test Job. God gives him permission because He is confident that Job will continue to praise Him regardless of the circumstances surrounding him. Scott then asked me if I thought that was how it happened for our team. Did I think that God knew that we would continue to praise Him even when the worst happened so that’s why He chose this plan for us?
That conversation slowly changed my perspective. Did it make all of the pain go away? Definitely not. Did it mean that I didn’t have days that I was angry or deeply, deeply sad? Of course not. Scott and I’s conversation simply gave me a purpose in those feelings. Yes, I was angry. Yes, I was sad. Yet in the midst of all of those things, I chose to continue to praise my God because that is what He had called me to do. He was still the good God I had always believed in, I just knew Him in a deeper way. In the midst of grief, guilt, and heartache, He called me to share the story He had given me of His faithfulness, of His provision, and of His plan.
When it was time to leave Maine 8 weeks later, I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want to be the girl on the team that had a wreck. I didn’t want the sympathetic looks or the questions that I felt would inevitably come. I wanted to stay in my safe place with my teammates who understood. But that wasn’t God’s plan. He had given me a story to tell and I needed to go home and tell it. It wasn’t easy, but that community He had given to me a year before was ready. They walked through the dark days of that first year – even when I was unwilling to let them in fully. They watched me cry, reminisce, and process – even when I made them do that from afar. As I slowly but surely took steps forward, they helped me find my new normal. It wasn’t easy, but I am so glad they were there to be a reminder that even on my worst, weakest days, God’s grace was sufficient.
That was my mantra – “Your grace is sufficient.” It still is – 6 years later. The scenario from the first paragraph still rears it’s ugly head on occasion, but I’ve learned to hold on to that verse and to LET HIM be sufficient in my weakness. In order to do that, I have to give Him control of the situation and rest in Him.
The last 6 years have brought so much truth to Romans 8:28, “For we know that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” God’s intricate plan truly blows me away. He knew I wasn’t ready for New England Travel Teams as a freshman so He placed me on a TN Travel Team so that I could grow in my faith and passion for missions while building life-long connections with a community that would support me through the good, bad, and ugly. He placed Casey in my life to encourage my heart and passion for Maine. He placed my team together specifically and strategically. He surrounded me with a new team to serve with that would love me right where I was. He made Marilyn my supervisor and I’ll be grateful for that for the rest of my life. He surrounded me with the right people at home in TN to ensure that I was honest and continued the healing process. He placed friends in my life for different seasons to love and encourage me. He uses my experience to make me more compassionate and understanding, and I am a better social worker because of that. His plan is evident and His grace is sufficient.
When I look back on the past 6 years, I’m genuinely awed at how faithful and gracious God has been. I have been back to Maine 6 times since that summer and each time I go, I am reminded of His goodness and the lessons that He has taught me because of that summer. While I still have moments of fear and sadness, they don’t overpower me like they once did. My faith is deeper. I know that God is good in all circumstances – not just the good ones. I know that He is with me always and that His grace truly is sufficient in my weakness.
I’ve always had a hard time sharing this part of my story. I never want to seek out attention or cause other people to have to reflect on how this story impacted them. Yet, not sharing my story is selfish and not honoring the One who is writing it. God has shown me grace upon grace throughout the last 6 years and it’s time that I share that so He gets the glory.
I pray that you are encouraged that whatever your storm is right now, God’s grace is sufficient. Let Him be the Fighter of your battles, the Calmer of your storm, and the Grace that sustains you through it all.