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So last August I started a new monthly series called “Let’s Have Tea”…and then proceeded to not publish any more blog posts for about six months. (insert shamefaced monkey emoji)
Here’s What Happened
Last August my husband was beginning his third and last year as an Internal Medicine resident. (To answer some common questions: he is a doctor with a medical license and he is not in school any more, but in residency he is practicing under supervision.) In July he had applied to gastroenterology (GI) fellowship programs all over the country for three more years of more specialized training, and we were waiting – hoping – for interviews.
What is gastroenterology?
I ran this post past my husband before publishing it and he said I should tell y’all what gastroenterology is, so I’ll give it my best shot. Gastroenterology (GI) covers the digestive system from top to bottom and also includes care of associated organs like the liver and pancreas. Endoscopies and colonoscopies are the GI doc’s bread and butter, but a GI doctor will also cover things like celiac disease, IBD (Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis), and IBS.
A GI doc like Ryan will have done 4 years of undergrad work, 4 years of medical school, an Internal Medicine residency (3 years, in our case), and a gastroenterology fellowship (also 3 years). We currently have about five months of residency left before starting fellowship.
I’ll take care of you (figuratively speaking, with my healthy recipes) before you get to the hospital, and Ryan will take care of you afterwards. 😛
(In case you didn’t get a good look at this picture at the top of this post, I’ll show you again. This was the picture we took while visiting my family in SC in November to send along with an update letter to family and friends. The cows posed perfectly, nursing calf and all. Most of the pictures in this post were taken on the same trip to SC.)
Here’s how the gastroenterology fellowship match works:
Residents apply to fellowship programs. Those fellowship programs receive applications from nearly a thousand applicants and send interview invitations to maybe thirty of them for maybe three spots. (The numbers depend on the size of the program.) Those thirty residents interview at the program on a specified date.
Before the national fellowship match (December 4th, for last year’s GI match), each resident ranks the places he interviewed. In a hypthothetical situation, let’s say our resident interviews at five programs. He’ll rank them from #1 to #5, from his top choice to his lowest choice. Say the programs at which he interviewed each interviewed thirty applicants. Those programs will rank the residents they interviewed from #1 to #30, with their favorite resident at the top of the list and their least favorite at the bottom.
At the fellowship match, a computer takes all the rank lists from the residents as well as the programs and matches them up as best it can. (This is a very simplified explanation of the process.) On match day, you find out where you matched, if you matched.
Yeah, I said “if.”
Some fellowships are fairly easy to get into, but some (like GI) are very competitive. I think the GI fellowship match in 2019 had around a 60% match rate, which means that only 60% of the resident doctors applying actually matched into a GI fellowship program.
If you don’t match, you try to “scramble” into a program that didn’t fill all its spots, you do a gap year somewhere (maybe staying on as a fourth year resident in your current program), do research for a year somewhere, etc. And then go through the application, waiting, interview, and match process all over again the next year if you choose to reapply.
There are so many qualified people applying! You’re going up against the cream of the crop. We fully realized that we might not match, but we prayed very specifically from the beginning of the process for TEN INTERVIEWS. Having a lot of interviews doesn’t ensure a match, but your chance of matching increases with your number of interviews. We knew that ten interviews was a long shot – a miracle! Well, guess what?
We got TWELVE!!!
That was so very clearly the hand of God at work. Of course we had to wait over a period of months for these interviews to trickle in, and the unknown weighed on me subconsciously more than I realized at the time. All along I had the tremendous blessing of peace knowing that God would work things out in some way, but the wait was still heavy.
(At the beginning of our journey together. CLICK HERE to see more wedding pictures!)
In September I had the amazing chance to go on a study trip to Israel with a group of around sixty people (none of whom I knew ahead of time) under the teaching of Ray Vanderlaan. I hope to write more in detail about this later on and share some pictures, but I can already tell you that pictures are not going to do the experience justice.
The entire two weeks was one of the best experiences of my life. I had forgotten how much I enjoy learning, and being able to “check out” from life (and the uncertainty of the fellowship match!) for two weeks and focus entirely on better understanding God’s Word and the history and culture and geography of the Bible was so refreshing – albeit physically exhausting. (We did lots of what I would consider fairly strenuous hiking.) Unfortunately Ryan wasn’t able to go along because of his work and interview schedule, but I dream of going back with him someday.
If you’re interested in getting a glimpse of what we studied, check out the That the World May Know DVD series published by Focus on the Family. These DVDs contain footage and teaching from trips like the one I went on, led by Ray (aka RVL).
When I got back, I promptly spent much of the month of October on my own because Ryan had interview trips every single week of that month. He really racked up the air miles, but since he’s the frugal and ingenious person that he is, he planned a lot of the interviews back to back and drove budget rental cars and rode buses in between some of the interviews to save money.
Needless to say, I was very glad when October was done (along with all of the interviews). I was able to go along for the last Ohio interview and did some sightseeing with my husband, so that was fun. The interviews were done…but the wait wouldn’t be over until December 4th. Gastroenterology fellowship match day.
Ryan had interviews all over the USA, from Texas (down on the Mexican border), to Las Vegas, to Vermont, to Ohio (multiple locations), Pennsylvania (multiple locations), New Orleans, right across the river from New York City, and probably a few more than I’m forgetting. We could end up ANYWHERE. Many of our options were closer to family, and we ranked these high on the list, but some were even further away than we currently are in Louisiana! All we could do was wait – and pray.
I knew that God had it all under control, but truly submitting the results to His will was definitely a daily battle. The result I dreaded most was not matching, both because I knew it would be a blow to my husband and because I selfishly didn’t want to have to repeat the whole application process the next year and go through the uncertainty all over again.
Me being the optimistic soul that I am, I was pretty sure that God was going to teach us a lesson in patience. I know I still have a lot of rough edges that need polished, so I wouldn’t have been surprised one bit if God decided to do that by asking me to wait another year and go through the refining process all over again! That wouldn’t have been a bad thing, and I knew He would see us through it, but if I had a choice I would humanly pick an easier option.
November brought more travel because Ryan had a prescheduled vacation the beginning of the month (which we spent in Central Florida visiting his old friends from med school days) and we went to see my family in South Carolina for Thanksgiving at the end of the month. Other than my trip to Israel, our SC trip was the highlight of my year! This was actually only the second time we’d been back to SC together since we got married. (I’ve been back more often on my own, since Ryan’s work schedule doesn’t usually allow him to make spontaneous trips.)
It was so good to see my family and get in on my mom’s extended family’s Thanksgiving dinner and fellowship! And of course attend church at my old church of twenty years, and spend time with both sets of grandparents, and take family pictures (with assorted farm critters), and give Traveler some attention.
December…and The Match
And then it was December 4th. Ryan was at work checking his email regularly. 😛 A little before noon he called me. I promptly sat down because I’ve read that this is proper protocol when one is expecting shocking news. I could tell by the tone of his voice that he was happy about something, so I was fairly certain he had matched and the weight began to lift.
But when he told me he had matched in Ohio…I almost couldn’t believe it! We had ranked the Ohio programs fairly high on the list because of their proximity to family and friends. Not only did God match us, but He truly gave us the desire of our hearts. Wow. Wow, wow, wow.
I never doubted the goodness of God or the fact that He was in control. But I also knew that what might seem good to God might not automatically scream, “This is a good thing!” from a human perspective. The fact that He deemed good the very thing that we were hoping for – that was really neat. We are very grateful and excited for this opportunity.
So, we’re moving!
Yep, we’re moving to Ohio in June! We’ll be there for three years, and once fellowship is done we will be free to move wherever we please (well, wherever God pleases!) for the first time in our married lives! By the end of it all, Ryan will have completed fourteen years of school and training after high school. Pretty proud of this husband of mine.
I know a lot of you are curious where exactly in Ohio we’ll be moving, but Ryan and I prefer to keep our exact location private. Thanks for understanding. 😉
I know that Ohio will bring its own share of challenges, and fellowship probably won’t be a walk in the park, but God is faithful wherever we go. Experiencing a “real” winter for the first time in my life will be a change for sure, but I’m excited about it! I’ve always enjoyed cold weather and these summers in Louisiana are brutal. Hey, I can put up with anything for three years, right?
Coming Back to the Blog
With all the travel, and anticipation of the match taking up brain space, and then the holiday season which always brings its full share of extra activities, I only really got back to spending more purposeful time on the blog in mid January. The break was nice and much needed, and at times it felt SO good that I wasn’t sure I would ever want to come back!
Honestly, it felt like I haven’t really had a break from big projects and life changes ever since I started the Necessary Food cookbook project in 2016. After that my life was very full with singing groups (3 week trip to South Africa in February of 2017), dating (April/May of 2017) and getting married (February 2018), and then jumping right into the Convenient Food cookbook project after getting married. My brain needed a rest, and I wanted to reevaluate my priorities.
I started dipping back into the blog (and the dreaded social media…haha) in mid January, and I soon saw that it wasn’t time for me to give up this part of my life yet. I had forgotten how much I really enjoy the creative aspect of blogging…how much I enjoy trying to help people in this small way…how much I like writing, and planning, and even bookkeeping. How much I like fine-tuning a recipe and photographing it.
(Rocky, the farm stallion)
I don’t know what this blog will look like in a year’s time, or how far behind I’ll get when moving, or how much time I’ll have for it once we have children. These unknowns scare me sometimes, but more and more I’m coming to peace with the knowledge that there are seasons for everything. Right now, I’m having fun blogging. I’m not blogging as regularly as I did a few years ago, and that’s OK. I’ll probably blog even less a few years from now if I have toddlers to attend to, and that’s OK too. But I can always come back to it if and when and however often I want. That’s pretty cool.
Kudos if you’re still with me. 😉
So, are we back to a monthly series?
In all honesty, this “Let’s Have Tea” series will probably never be a truly regular monthly series based on past performance. However, you will hopefully see slightly more regular life update slash bits and pieces of life posts in future. Not all as long winded as this one, I hope.
I was planning to include a lot of other actual recent life tidbits to this post, but it’s gotten rather long so I think I’m going to post those separately in a Part 2 post next week. Stay tuned, and sign up for my email newsletter if you want to be sure to see it!