|Sam, Savannah and Spencer - about 2 years after we moved to Illinois (2002)|
Jeff's adviser, Jan, approached him one day to let him know that they had been extended an offer to move their lab to the University of Miami in Florida. They were seriously considering it and felt it was only fair to let Jeff know. While we were more than welcome to move with them, Jan understood if we didn't want to relocate our young family for just one year. With her blessing, Jeff started looking for a job.
February is not the best time to look for teaching positions within higher education. As Jeff entered the job market, there were relatively few positions available. He optimistically applied for everything that was even a remote possibility and we hoped for the best. After a position or two didn't work out (one school paid less than Jeff received at his postdoc!!) he was given an interview for a tenure-track position in the Psychology Department at Eastern Illinois University.
To make a long story short, Jeff was offered the job. Because of the demands of his postdoc, we had one day to make the five hour drive with three kids in tow to look at houses. After looking at 9 houses within our meager price range, we found one that seemed like a good fit. Knowing we couldn't come back to look again, we offered the asking price (a whopping $72,500), packed up the kids and drove the five hours back to Columbus. We were relieved the next day to hear our offer had been accepted.
We moved here on July 31, 2000. We attended church on Sunday and were invited to the Bishop's home for dinner that week. It was there that the Bishop informed us, "I prayed you here." He said he needed a Young Men President and extended the calling to Jeff. We hadn't even been here for 2 weeks.
I believe Bishop Lunt. I think he really did pray us here. Why? Well, shortly after Jeff accepted the position at Eastern and we'd found a home, we learned that the lab would not be moving to Florida. We could have stayed in Columbus. And we LOVED Columbus! But Heavenly Father knew where He needed us and through an unusual series of events, He got us here. Looking back over the past 15+ years, we are exactly where we are supposed to be.
Why am I sharing this journey now? Because I live in Illinois. It's no big secret that Illinois is in the worst financial shape in the country. Jeff works for a state university, but the state has given EIU (and every other state university) exactly zero dollars this school year. The state has still not been able to agree on a budget even though the deadline was July 1 of last year. They're squabbling over whether to cut higher education by 20 or 30%, but in the meantime, we've effectively received a 100% cut while they duke it out. Eastern is getting desperate. They've cut civil service positions, put others on mandatory furlough, canceled festivals and other events, and a whole slew of other things to save money anywhere they can. Jeff is cautiously optimistic, but we can't help but wonder about the future.
So I think back to what brought us here. I've learned that Heavenly Father knows where He needs us. If that's here, we're more than happy to stay. We're not losing sleep over the current state of our state, but we are looking to the future and wondering what's in store. I'm glad I'm not in charge!