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  • Writer's pictureAlie Powell

A Time to Celebrate

I have been wrestling a lot with what to write about March. Hence why it is coming to you in April. This past couple months I had the idea to finally do something to celebrate my graduation. To explain fully what this means to me. I have to go back to April of 2020, and to do that, I’ve had to wrestle with some dark emotions. Some I thought I processed through, and some I was still feeling and grieving now.

As everyone knows by now, April of 2020 was just after the start of quarantine/lockdown of the pandemic all over the world. It was an odd time for everyone. But I can’t start this story here. I have to give you more context. So we are going all the way back to August of 2017. The start of my grad school program. I was beginning in August of 2017 and set to be completed in August of 2019. A couple months in the Lord put it on my heart to switch to the doctorate program portion, which added eight more months. I would now be done in April of 2020. At the time, that sounded so exciting.

August 2017 - I began school in St. Augustine

First week of school we couldn’t even complete because we got evacuated by Hurricane Irma. Brand new roommates, evacuating together to one of their Grandma’s houses in state more. We hit the ground running with school and weather.

January 2018 - Second term began, this would prove to be the most challenging term academically for me. I encountered the first class I was ever worried about failing, neuroscience, and failed my very first test of my academic career. I had to seek out tutors, new ways of studying, and study more than I ever had before.

April 2018 - During this time, I had also felt the Lord tell me to end my relationship with Sean, if I am honest with you, I had known it was something I should’ve done for a while. I just couldn’t understand why. I thought this man was the man I was supposed to marry, God had told me that too. It just didn’t make sense. But eventually after a lot of wrestling I did it. On our 7 year anniversary and Easter that year, I broke up with him for good. For my own sanity I deleted everyone in his family and him from my social media accounts. It was so hard, but the moment I did it, I knew I had the peace of God. Even though, none of it made sense at the time. The end of April I ended up

having car troubles and eventually knew I was going to need a new one. Something I had no clue how I was to afford.

May-July 2018 - During this time, I was gifted a new car. Long story. It was from the Lord. I had found out that I passed neuro the previous term, bless. The summer term, or third term for us was much more open. I started a gym routine, was eating healthy and meal prepping to make my study life easier. I spent time with friends, at the beach, and learning about all things love and relationships. I sought out so many podcasts, books, sermons, and more during that time. Soaking in all of God’s word and people’s wisdom about the topic from a biblical perspective. I gave my heart fully back to Jesus, was re-baptized, and was completely rebuilding the foundation of who I was in those months. I regard that special time highly. It was a season of so much growth.

August 2018 - I had a graduation party for a friend to attend, I knew Sean, my ex at the time, would be there. Truthfully, I almost did not go, I figured he would hate me and I didn’t really want all the pain and tears that came with seeing him. But I felt t

he Holy Spirit so clearly

Tonight is about your friend and her accomplishments, not you. Go.

It’s hard to argue with that. So I went. Turns out Sean and I had a lot to catch up on. He most certainly didn’t hate me. He was being so dang sweet that night, such a gentleman. I actually ended up spending most of that night talking to him, which I felt bad about later because again… It was supposed to be about my friend. Nonetheless, when he walked me to my car that night, something in me just wanted so badly to never leave. We talked for a couple more hours that night before I left. I drove home so late, which I never do, I am a terrible night driver truth be told. But that night I drove home mad. I was praying the whole way home so mad and confused at God. I had so many questions.

Why was that so nice?

Why do I have to love him so much?

I thought we were supposed to break up?

Was this not what you wanted for me?

God, you’re going to have to be extremely clear, because I don’t know what to do with this?

Why was he so dang charming tonight?

Am I just a sucker?

Is this not what you planned?

Am I doing the right thing?

Was that stupid?

Should I not have talked to him that much?

Am I going to get hurt again?

So. Many. Questions.

And I didn’t know it then, but God would answer them all. I was set to leave for a mission trip a couple weeks later. Sean had tried to text me, and I was trying my best to keep him at bay. Though I wanted to talk to him too. We shared many nights of phone calls, talking, staying up too late. It felt so pure, whole, and so sweet. It felt like a whole new relationship in some ways. I still was hesitant to let him in.

When I left for El Salvador I didn’t think I would have service, so I knew I wouldn’t talk to him for a week. We ended up having Wi-Fi at times and he had offered to pick me up from the airport. I wasn’t sure he actually would, but he did. And he took me to dinner. And I got back to my parents house late. When my mom found out Sean was the one that brought me home she was confused. She did not understand why we were talking again. I’m sure a lot of people didn’t.

But I didn’t care. I knew that my heart and eyes were focused on God. His answers. His reply. I knew that if this is what He had intended, then it didn’t matter what anyone else said or thought. And as someone who cares too much what people think at times, that was difficult for me then.

September-December 2018 - Sean and I got back together officially, I integrated him back into my life and my friends. That was awkward at times. I knew people were unsure. I had sought out so much wisdom for this decision, I didn’t care what others thought. We talked about marriage and getting engaged. We had long discussions about our future and our past. Apologized and asked for forgiveness for how we had hurt the other. And our new relationship, blended with our old selves, old past, and all the future ahead, all lied perfectly on the heavenly foundation that we’d spent 6 months apart building. It was a beautiful thing to witness God doing.

During this time I was finishing up my final term of school that was required before going off to start our fieldwork rotations. Those were 12 weeks each for the next two terms. Around Christmas time I was hoping that Sean would propose. Spoiler he didn’t until the next May… talk about trying to be patient.

January-April 2019: My first fieldwork in Jacksonville, FL. It flew by! I was living with a friend’s sister, and it was so fun. She was so sweet to open her spare room to me for that time. During this time my health really started to act funky. I just started feeling run down all the time, and not myself.

May-August 2019: Sean proposed two days before I left for Tupelo, MS for my last rotation. During that time I felt so out of whack. I was surviving, not thriving. I was up at 5AM, to work by 7AM. By the time I got home at 5PM, all I could do was lay in bed or on the couch and watch Netflix. I was constantly thirsty, constantly tired, and I had no clue what was going on. I just wanted to make it through so I could get home and go to my doctor to see what was going on.

September-December 2019: I got to finally move home, got my first round of blood work claiming “everything is fine, you look good.” I got to move into what would be our first apartment as a married couple in a few short months. Our wedding date was set for April 2020. My final two terms of school were in a two day shy countdown of our wedding. We’d decided we wanted to get married the same weekend as graduation, so that my friends would be able to attend without paying to travel twice. They were students or new grads too. Those two terms were the finale to my doctoral capstone project, and I was so ready to be done.

January-March 2020: I tried to go to another more specialized endocrine doctor for hormones, since I was still feeling super imbalanced. He was the most degrading and belittling doctor I have ever met. He made me feel so small. Not to mention all the tests he ran stated the same “your levels are normal.” Ugh. Early March, I took my boards (NBCOT) for the first time. I took them prior to graduation, which meant I could not find out my score until final transcripts were conferred. Almost 2 months of waiting, but I wanted it out of the way so I could focus on the wedding. Middle to end of March, well we all know. Quarantines hit and everyone was on lock down. Our bachelor and bachelorette parties got canceled. And it was looking as though we would need to cancel our wedding as well.

April 2020:

At this point we moved our wedding to September, all the details of that I’ll spare you…but it wasn’t a walk in the park. I had luckily been able to finish my capstone project fully before everything shut down and got all the hours required for me to graduate. However, graduation had now been converted to a virtual toast in place of when we could reschedule a commencement. (We never did, everything lasted much longer than anyone suspected).

The last couple days before graduation, it was looking like my grandpa might have to go back to the hospital. Though this time, we knew we wouldn’t be able to go because of the closures. He held off for as long as possible, but the day before my mom thought he might have to go in, I wanted to see him. Just in case it was the last time. So I went to my parent’s house, sat in a lawn chair outside his sliding glass window and talked to him on the phone so he could hear me through the glass. He gave well wishes, like he knew it was the last time I would talk to him. He told me how much he loved me and Sean and how much he wished the best for us.

Friday I “graduated.” Sunday, we decided to keep our wedding date and have Sean’s best friend Kevin marry us, also the best man for our wedding. We distanced ourselves in a school field parking lot. My grandma needed to be able to go to the hospital the next day, and so my entire family couldn’t hug me on my wedding day. That was really hard. But we made the best of it. Looking back now, I wish I would’ve just hugged them. And held them close.

The next day grandpa was going in for a surgery, followed by another one the next day if he made it through. He made it through the first one, and around the same time I found that out, I got an email telling me I had not passed my NBCOT.

The following day, my grandpa did not wake up from the second surgery. We were told he was brain dead. We were not able to go say goodbye. That was even harder. One of my biggest regrets that I wish I could change is being able to hug him or hold his hand to say goodbye. That I had to sob on Facetime and quickly say my goodbyes so my mom could call all the other family for them to say theirs as well. His body may have left us, but his soul is in Heaven. I will see him again someday. Be wrapped in his arms, hear his voice, and see his smile. But until then, his memories and legacy run strong in my mind and heart.

May-August 2020: These months started off with two weeks of me sitting in my pajamas playing Homescapes on my phone on the couch. Crying off and on. Trying to feel everything. Trying to rest. I spent a lot of time in prayer. I spent a lot of time sifting through the heartaches and disappointments of the last couple weeks. I gave myself space to just be, and do nothing. Something I had not been able to do in years due to the overwhelming rigor of grad school demands.

My now husband, was working from home in our apartment that we now shared. My husband in those months was the most supportive, caring, and loving person. He provided for us when I was no more than a shell of a person. Days when I could hardly get out of bed due to my hormonal imbalances and newly acquired grief. Somedays I slept until noon and then didn’t get off the couch the rest of the day.

After those first two weeks I started to get myself back into a more normal routine. And started studying again. I took my boards a second time in June. This time I did not pass by two points. Ouch. I was obviously devastated again. Our new formal wedding date was in September as I previously mentioned, and we had a couple trips planned for August since things were slowly opening again. So I decided I was going to enjoy the rest of the summer without worrying about studying. Once our wedding was over I would studying again.

September-December 2020: Our wedding was so fun and it was amazing to hug people and be with family again. I started studying for boards again in October and November. I took an interactive course to challenge my study habits. In early December I took my boards again. This time for some reason the score release was delayed, so I waited a couple weeks until a few days prior to Christmas to find out, I PASSED. And by a significantly higher number too! I was so happy. Best Christmas gift ever.

2021: In the new year I started applying for jobs and got my first one in March at a skilled nursing facility. Nothing crazy happened this year other than trying to get as many hours as I can. Trying to continue searching for full time jobs, and finally getting one in July. I also opened my own LLC that I hope to continue to develop and grow in the coming years.

But before I knew it, it was 2022. I was thinking about this time in my life. And how fast it has all gone. I realized I never really did anything for graduation. Every other event had its moment. We had our wedding, we had my grandpa’s memorial, but I never celebrated one of the hardest things I have ever done. So I decided I should. I had already bought my cap and gown all that time ago, so I was just going to get some pictures. Since I would already be dressed up I asked my friends if they would come to a dinner after pictures just to share a meal and celebrate with me. They were all so supportive, and even though I said no gifts, they brought them and balloons anyways. It was such a special night.

In the days leading up to the pictures I had so many negative thoughts. The enemy as trying to hard to attack me. I kept hear him whisper lies like

This is so stupid, it’s two years too late. No one wants to celebrate with you. It doesn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter. Isn’t that kind of conceited to ask people to celebrate you after all this time? Aren’t you worried how that will look? You aren’t even where you are supposed to be in your career. You don’t even have a job that looks important. It took you forever to even pass your boards, who cares about graduation.

And on and on and on.

I sought prayer and my bibles study group to speak against the lies I had swirling in my head. The enemy loves to whisper lies. I didn’t want to continue on listening to the lies either. I fought hard against them, but really I think I kind of just shoved them down.

It wasn’t until that night that I really started processing all the emotions out. It also wasn’t until one of my friends from dinner texted me after, asking if I was okay that I realized how many emotions I had been bottling in. I felt happy, thankful, loved, overwhelmed, sad, and just overall so many things.

I was remembering all the work it took to get to that moment. The almost failing neuroscience, processing through my relationship, a pandemic, a loss of a loved one, marriage, two failed board attempts, and so much more. I had made deep friendships. I had lost others. I learned so much about myself and God. I had moved all over the place with most of what I owned fitting in my car. I had no roots physically, but yet had created deeper roots in the Lord over the last 3-4 years, and I could not be more grateful.

That night as I sat there sobbing to my husband processing all the emotions I was feeling. I ultimately felt so so grateful. Grateful for growth through hard seasons, for new friends that celebrate old accomplishments, and for a career I love. It took so much work behind the scenes. There are so many feelings bottled up in these pictures. 2 years of waiting. 3 years of hard work. 1 hour of photos that gave me such a gift. So friends, all of that to say. Take the pictures. Celebrate yourself. Don’t let a pandemic, fear, or whatever else steal your joy. Who cares if it is late… maybe for you, it’ll feel right on time like it did for me.

It says in Ecclesiastes 3 “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.”

I have so clearly seen this over the last couple years. We had time to grieve. Time to build up. Time to be quiet. Time to laugh, cry, and dance. God never said what the timeline looked like. He just said there was a time for it all. What is it your time for? Do you need to celebrate? Laugh? Build? Tear down? Mend? I’m praying God shows you whatever it may be. Much love to you in your season, friend.

Choose to Live Good Good.



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