- Another year older... Garrett turned 7 years old back in July and Bryan turned 4 in late October. We have a 2nd grader, a Kindergartener, and a preschooler in our home. Garrett is doing really well in school and improving leaps and bounds with his reading (something we are thrilled to see). He is doing swimming lessons every week and loves the chance to compete with himself about how far he can jump off the diving board, how long he can stay under water, etc. Luke is loving Kindergarten and his teacher. He is thriving as we expected all while keeping his hilariously vibrant personality. He just finished his first season of Upwards Flag Football and will be happy to tell you about his touchdowns if you ask him :) Bryan is doing preschool 3 days/week and loving school. He officially off the size charts at the doctor's office and itching for his chance to get on the soccer field. Competition is ripe in the Stephens' household. (Oh, and Jenn just turned 32 a week ago too! I'm still in my fourth year of being 29)
- Thanksgiving 2013: We celebrated Thanksgiving this year just as a family here in Michigan for the first time in our marriage. I had to be in town to work so we decided to forego our traditional trip to Elkhorn this year and spend our last Thanksgiving in Michigan here with friends. Unfortunately our plans were torpedoed by a sick little boy but we still had good food and great family time. We really missed Elkhorn but it was still a nice holiday!
- Final Days in Michigan: We can now see the light at the end of this tunnel and it brings with it both exhilaration and grief at the departure that is coming. My final day of residency is June 30, 2014. We will then move to Saint Paul, MN during July so that I can start my fellowship on August 1, 2014. Five years is the longest Jenn and I have been in one place and what a special place this is! Goodbye will not be easy. We are soaking up weekend trips around the city and the region knowing our time is limited.
- Global Medical Missions Conference 2013: Jenn, Bayleigh Laster, and Bethany Laster made the trek to Louisville, KY to stay with our friend Amber Ratliff for the largest medical missions conference in the world! An inspiring weekend with great conversation and big dreams amidst a wonderful community of servants.
- "Bring Samuel Home" - Our dear friend Amber Ratliff (who hosted for the Medical Missions Conference) is adopting a 5 year old boy from China and we have been thrilled to be a part of that journey to bring him home. Her/Their story can be seen at Amber's blog
- Orthopedic Residency: Residency is going really well though incredibly busy! The past few months have included trips to Memphis, TN for a surgical approaches course, Richland, WA for the SIGN Fracture Care International conference, and Phoenix, AZ for the Orthopedic Trauma Association conference. Being in my final year of residency is nice in that I get some degree of choice in what surgeries I participate in. I am learning more and more each day and loving (mostly) it! There are days when I am so ready to be done and others where I get a sudden rush of anxiety about being done so soon. With seven months left, that probably means I'm right where I should be :)
- Unexpected Opportunities: While at some recent conferences, I have had the chance to make connections with other surgeons from around the world. The desire to work in developing countries and offer high quality orthopedic care is gaining more and more traction with various national orthopedic associations. As part of my residency I am required to do three research projects. My project last year dealt with treatment of femur fractures in Ethiopia and Kenya, and I was fortunate to present the project at a couple of conferences. Conversations at those conference have now turned into the opportunity to contribute to a book on orthopedic care in the developing world, a chance I would have never chosen otherwise. My passion is international orthopedics - particularly orthopedics in low resource settings. These chances, along with another research project involving tibia fractures in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Pakistan, have in a sense fallen into my lap! Though it makes for a busy stretch, I am grateful.
- Africa: Jenn and I continue to feel God calling us to be involved on the continent of Africa. We have developed many special friendships there and continue to pray and seek ways to be involved. I am headed to north Africa next month to visit some dear friends and to explore what God is up to there and how we might partner with him in the future. We - as a family - are also planning on spending a significant portion of time in African at the end of my fellowship year in Minnesota before starting work in Tennessee. We would appreciate your prayers as those plans and dreams are worked out over the next year or so.
- Upcoming Trip: Besides my trip to north Africa, Jenn and I are planning to be at the International Healthcare Foundation's Medical Missions Seminar in Fort Worth, TX in mid-January. I will be doing a short presentation on common orthopedic injuries. It will be a good weekend of reconnecting with friends and family
Hope each one of you had a blessed thanksgiving season as well! Blessings...