I love October—the beautiful colors of the changing leaves, pumpkin doughnuts readily available in stores, cooler temps that mean I can finally wear my cute jeans and sweaters, pumpkin doughnuts, apple picking with the family, pumpkin doughnuts….
Plus, some of the best things in my family’s lives have happened in October. My husband proposed to me in October, our anniversary and several family birthdays are celebrated this month, and both houses we’ve lived in were bought in October. It seems to be our month.
But although it’s in the same spot on the calendar each year, October sneaks up on me and causes me to panic. Every. Single. Year. It is, by far, the busiest month of the year for my family—even beating out December. There are multiple birthday parties to plan, gifts to buy, cakes to make, Halloween costumes to get or create…. My perfectionistic tendencies make me want to please everyone and do everything; therefore, the celebrations of the month just stress me out.
It all started in October 1999. My husband proposed to me that year on the ninth. I didn’t want a summer wedding because everyone was having summer weddings, and my husband loves fall, especially October—mostly because his birthday is at the end of it—so we decided to plan the wedding for the same weekend the following year. That put our wedding date on October 7, 2000.
Three years after we got married—to the day, I found myself in a hospital bed, about to give birth to our first child. “I didn’t get you a gift,” I told my husband, “But, here’s a baby. Happy anniversary!” She was the absolute best anniversary present we could ever receive, and after two rough years of infertility struggles, it was as if God were giving us an especially sweet blessing on our marriage. However, that feeling didn’t last long.
Even though my husband and I always say that we put God first, our spouse second, and our children third, unfortunately, our anniversary has tended to take a backseat to our oldest child’s birthday. Her birthday sneaks up on us anyway, since it’s early in the month, so we are usually too busy scrambling to buy her gifts and plan a last-minute party that we completely overlook our own anniversary. Even family members call October 7th “Anna’s birthday” and completely forget that it was first “Jeff and Melanie’s anniversary.” (Hey, if the latter didn’t happen, then the former wouldn’t have, either…just saying!)
When I was struggling with infertility, I specifically remember God speaking to me through His Word and promising me children (plural, as in, more than one!). I didn’t know if they’d be biological or adopted, and I didn’t know when they’d come, but from then on, I praised Him and believed Him for the promise I knew He’d fulfill. Later, through other circumstances, God promised my husband and me four children.
We went on to have two more children within the three-and-a-half year span after our first was born. My oldest two daughters are 20 months apart; my second and third are 22 months apart. I had very difficult pregnancies; at one point, I had three children in diapers; and I was constantly exhausted, so I decided I wanted to wait a little while before we tried for the fourth. When I decided I was ready, we got pregnant right away. Because I did not want another October birthday, I waited until I knew any baby we’d have would be born in November or later. By my calculations, this baby was going to be due in early- to mid-November. A little too close to October, but good enough.
I knew I was pregnant for one day before I miscarried. I was sad, but with as easily as I’d gotten pregnant with my second and third children, as well as with this one, I figured it wouldn’t take long to get pregnant again. And, besides, this meant that the fourth kid’s birthday would be pushed even further away from October.
But months went by, and I started experiencing infertility issues again. I was getting impatient, thinking, “I believe God promised me four children, so why isn’t it happening?” That summer, I went to a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) convention, and Matt Redman, who was one of the performers, told the story of how his song “You Never Let Go” came to be. His wife had had numerous miscarriages—something like seven or eight—and that song was born out of their experiences. As he sang it, I sobbed while the Lord said to me, “I promised you a fourth child. I will deliver on that promise. Just be patient.”
After that, I didn’t doubt; I knew He’d pull through. And, He did. About five months later, I found out I was pregnant. The due date? October 2010. If you think God doesn’t have a sense of humor, well…think again.
I knew He was teaching me a lesson—that He causes things to happen in HIS timing, not mine. How presumptuous it was of me to think that I could plan when this baby would be born! I see now how foolish that was. And looking back, I also realized that if I’d had the baby I miscarried, we’d have essentially been homeless at the time it was to be born. We had sold our house (in October!) of 2009 and had no place to live for about two-and-a-half weeks while we had to be out of our old house but before we could move into our new one. Some friends offered to let us stay with them during that time, but if I’d have not had the miscarriage, I’d have had a newborn while staying in someone else’s home and then later while trying to move into our new house. Less than ideal situations.
Even though I realized fairly quickly what God wanted to teach me through that situation, it was equally as quickly that I forgot again. I remember really wanting to make our 10th anniversary extra special—because we rarely got to celebrate it without it being overshadowed by Anna’s birthday—and had hopes of spending it in Hawaii. But because I was pregnant, we couldn’t go to Hawaii and, instead, spent our anniversary at McDonald’s because that’s where Anna wanted to eat on her seventh birthday. (Sigh…)
Our fourth child, the one I had sobbed over just a year before, was born five days later, on October 12, 2010. While being absolutely thrilled with the birth of our last daughter, I do have to admit that a part of me was a bit bitter that I wasn’t soaking up rays on a beautiful Hawaiian beach. My thoughts turned to, “ANOTHER October birthday? Seriously?!” We already had our anniversary, our oldest’s birthday, my husband’s birthday, and now, our youngest’s birthday…ALL in the same month! It was a bit more than I wanted to handle. Why couldn’t things have been spread out a little bit more? Instead of seeing the blessings, I could only see the increasingly full October calendar.
And it would only get fuller in years to come. My brother got married in 2015. His anniversary? October 3rd. He gained a stepdaughter, now my niece, that year. Her birthday? October 9th. We also got a dog in 2015. His birthday? October 8th. October 31st, obviously, is Halloween, and that always sneaks up on me, too, so I’m always making costumes (or paying way too much for them!) the night or two before because I forget about them until it’s almost too late. And my husband’s birthday, which is the 29th, always seems to get overlooked because I’m too stressed out about Halloween costumes! I can’t seem to keep my head above water.
You’d think after all these years, I’d have October figured out. You’d think I’d plan better—and earlier—but I don’t. Even two weeks ago, I was scrambling to find a time for us to celebrate my daughters’ birthdays with our extended family, and a couple days before our anniversary, my husband and I were frantically searching online for something to do for it, which, as usual, we’d almost forgotten about.
What had started out as blessings I had let become burdens. They became disguised as stressors because I lost sight of the reasons for celebration and became too focused on making the celebrations themselves—the parties, the gifts, the cakes—just perfect. But God revealed them again as blessings when He reminded me last week that all of these wonderful things that have happened in October didn’t happen by accident but by HIS mighty hand. HE orchestrated them all—not to stress me out, but to show me how much He loves me.
He blessed me with the best husband in the world, who just happens to have been born in October. Our family was originally created in October when we got married, and, whether we remember the actual wedding date every year or not, we get to celebrate a wonderful marriage every day. He blessed us with four beautiful, healthy daughters, two of whom were also born in October. And it’s not lost on me the fact that they are my oldest and my youngest—my “bookends,” as I call them—AND the two with whom I had trouble getting pregnant. October reminds me that things come full circle and that God always fulfills His promises.
It’s still difficult to balance everything that October brings with it, but I am learning to go with the flow a little more and celebrate everything instead of letting it all stress me out. Parties may be thrown together haphazardly and gifts still get bought last-minute, and, yes, I was sweating a little, wondering if my daughters’ presents would arrive in time this year. (They did—thanks to Amazon Prime!) And while we may have planned our anniversary date a tad late, my husband and I actually, for the first time in years, went out by ourselves ON our actual anniversary!
Mind you, I still have NO clue what to get my husband for his birthday OR what the girls will be for Halloween, but I’m trying not to stress out over it and am instead choosing to see the blessings that my husband and children (and brother and sister-in-law, and niece, and dog, and everyone else…) are. Not just in October, but Every. Single. Day.
(Oh, and in case you’re wondering, we finally made it to Hawaii in November 2016. Not a milestone anniversary and not in October, but we made it! God is good.)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV)