Sufficient Grace for the Journey

Sufficient Grace for the Journey

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

A journey can be described as traveling from one place to another.  A journey can also be a long and difficult process of personal change and development.  I’ve traveled both in my life. I know you have too.Those simple descriptions are found doing a Google search. I want to talk about the long and difficult process of personal change and development.

Have you ever watched those movies where people were able to go back into the past and change events so that out comes could be different? Hindsight is always 20/20. Are there ever events which happen in your life, and you think if you could only go back, I’d do this or that differently? What would you change?

Being a mom was really all I ever wanted to be. I knew I wanted to be a nurse from an early age, but being a mom was what I wanted to be more than anything in the world. In 1979, a little over 3 months after Mike and I were married, we found out we were going to be parents. I was beyond excited. There were several times during that pregnancy I thought it might not happen. I had a few bouts of bleeding early on but just a few months later, on September 18, 1980, a healthy baby boy came into our world.

I loved being pregnant. There was something special with each of my pregnancies about feeling them move inside me. I was their protector. They were nourished by me. My body would even go without nutrients just to make sure they were taken care of. I know not everyone cherished their pregnancies like this. I have friends who were extremely sick during their pregnancies and just couldn’t wait to deliver their precious cargo.

The first few weeks were quite an adjustment for Mike and I. Newborns can be fussy creatures. When they get their days and nights mixed up and you as a mom don’t get sleep for weeks there comes the swift realization babies are work. I was still in bliss though. I loved him so much. Michael Brandon Harrell, all 8 pounds, 7 ounces of him…pure kissing bliss.









I made a scrapbook of each of my 3 children. At the time, you don’t realize the memories may be all you have one day. When our children are small, we carefully watch over them and protect them. To tell you the truth, when they grow older and leave our watchful care, many of us still feel the need to watch over them. At least I do…and did.

Part of our role is to train these little ones to be capable and responsible adults and to one day watch them raise their own families, and the circle of life continues.

What doesn’t cross our minds when these little ones come into our lives, are the heartaches they may endure. I have a dear friend whose daughter was diagnosed with cancer at age 2. She has grown into young adulthood now, but at an early age, circumstances totally out of a protective mom’s control came into their lives. It was a long stressful and painful journey. Her road to recovery was met with many obstacles. Certainly a journey they had not anticipated, nor would they have wanted their daughter to experience this.

We aren’t given the certainties of our lives ahead of time. If we were able to know the future…what would we change in order to avoid difficulties? I know I’ve had these thoughts go through my mind over and over again the past few months. As many of you know, our beautiful Michael “Brandon” Harrell left this physical world after many years struggling with Veteran PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)  and TBI (traumatic brain injury) on January 17th, 2017 about 3:00 AM. I’m still in the early and raw grieving stages of this experience so my mind searches all over for what I could have done to help prevent this tragedy.  (as moms…we still want to protect our children, no matter how old they are)

I’ve also experienced thoughts of grief for him personally. I’ve grieved through the years of the pain he experienced emotionally after returning from Iraq. He suffered from survivors guilt. Several of those who would have been in his command (had he not been sent home with PTSD)  were killed in the line of duty. He suffered from a brain injury from a bomb that went off 6 feet from him while he was in Iraq.

As a mom I wanted to help him. I wanted to help take away his pain and his emotional trauma. His journey became my journey. At some point during the past 9 years, I wanted to take this pain from him, and I immersed myself in trying to “fix” amd save  him. I disagreed with all the medication the Veteran’s Administration (VA)  kept piling on. As a nurse, I had researched each drug, and realized they weren’t even for what he was diagnosed with. He made the choice to listen to the VA. That’s another topic though…

Somewhere along the way I became lost in my own journey. My journey became so entrenched in looking for answers to help him, I lost my own way. The second guessing creeps in. What could I have done more to save him…to fix him…to help him? Guilt crept in during the first few weeks after his death. A deep hurt pierced my heart. I brought a child into this world that grew up and experienced unimaginable pain. Why did God allow me to bring a child into the world who would suffer so? I had to go through this sort of self-talk in order to hear God speak tenderly to me.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

His GRACE is sufficient for me. His GRACE was not only sufficient for ME, but it was sufficient for Brandon. Brandon worshipped God through his praise only 2 days before his death. Brandon’s journey wasn’t just filled with pain. He has 2 beautiful children, Caleb and Kayla. He had a beautiful girlfriend, Ginger. He loved his brother Jenniss, and his sister Kelly, and their children. They all loved him. He was loved and highly blessed. He had friends. His church friends, and his band of brothers/sisters.

His funeral was packed with people who loved him. His life wasn’t all suffering. His journey was filled with pain, but it was also filled with joy and love. He was the funniest prankster. He rocked out a guitar. I’ve heard of all the conversations he had with friends about God. He was deep in the things of God. He knew God. He prayed.

As a parent, losing a child has been the most devastating thing I’ve ever experienced. I wanted to protect him, to see him heal. He is healed now. He’s in the loving arms of a healing Savior. My journey continues. God’s grace is sufficient for my journey. I’ve laid down the guilt I’ve carried that I couldn’t protect him…I couldn’t fix him. I’m learning now…it’s time to fix me. It’s time to be still now and just let the Grace of Jesus flow through me. For when I’m weak, then I’m made strong…I’m learning to allow His grace to guide me on this journey, and to stop taking on the burdens and guilt He didn’t give us to begin with.




10 Responses to Sufficient Grace for the Journey

  1. Dear Joyce, I wrapped my arms around myself as I looked at this picture and sent you the biggest hug I could. My heart has ached for you and I can not imagine your anguish at times. I also see much beauty and joy in what you have written here and I look forward to reading your words. Sending you much love and peace and holding you in my thoughts.

    • Thank you Michelle. I’m beginning to be able to pull my words together now, and I’m heading in a slightly different direction with my writings now as a result. My journey is changing up a bit and I’m on the road to seeing what’s next.

  2. Thank you, Joyce. God told me again and again that my son, Kenneth, was in His hands and to get my hands off. But over and over I would see my son sinking in the waters of depression and anxiety and saw him self-medicating, and, though praying constantly, I would rush in to “save” him. Kenneth was studying the Bible daily, writing in his journal, listening to the teachings of Ravi Zakarias, and talking with me about his journey with God. I felt I could finally leave it to God to guide him. He went to church twice on Sunday, and again on Wednesday night. We had spent Wednesday talking as he helped me with various projects. I felt so good about his upbeat ways that day. Little did I know that he was in the deepest waters he had ever faced, I was sure he was safe. The next night he died. Now I know he is safe, but my heart is in pain knoiwng I will not see him again until my end. However, others’ lives have been changed through his death. I hear him saying what I need to hear when trying to take care of Seven (his son). And I know God is in him and he in God. Your blog and all of your thoughts and words have meant so much to me on my journey. This lets me see the “Body of Christ” in a way that is near and clear. Thank you for your work in Christ with the rest of us. Much love.

  3. Hi Joyce.What a beautiful post. I wish you grace and guidance on your journey. I did not have the honor of knowing Brandon but I have no doubt that he would be so very proud of you for the way you are sharing and growing all while helping others on your journey.

    • Thank you Kathy. It’s so very hard some days. I still feel like I need to approach the VA and their wrongdoings. Waiting for the right way and right time to do it.

  4. I lost my son also with PTSD and by getting hit by an Ied. He came home mentally and physically destroyed. The Va only pushed med after med but couldn’t even remember who he was at appt time. I broke into his home and found and awful sight that will never leave me. But as you say Gods grace is sufficient

    • I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m blessed that I didn’t find him. The raveges of war have so many avenues and faces. Wounds run deep and surely extends way beyond the soldier. I wasn’t prepared on how to help him fully. I believe there should be allowances and education from the VA for the family.

  5. Joyce, this touches my heart. Your love for your precious son is so evident. You must have been a very special Mama to him. I just cannot imagine your pain but yes, I do know that God will see you through this. He has His hand over you and your family and you will have joy again–but the void will surely always be there, for Brandon was a part of you, and you were a part of him. He knew your love and I am sure that he knew God’s love. Find hope in knowing that he is looking into the eyes of Jesus now and as you said, he is healed. You and your family remain in my prayers. God bless you.

    • Thank you so much Pam. Well…he certainly knew how much I loved him. He didn’t always appreciate how I didn’t approve of all the meds the VA had him on. I know he felt like if he didn’t do what they told him to do, he’d lose his VA disability and benefits. He gave me the hugest hug a few months before he died and thanked me for believing in him. I miss him so much every day. We know where his spirit is right now, and he’s at peace. I’m praying to find the wisdom in the pain.