Monday, April 28, 2014

Staying Connected to the Vine

This afternoon, I sat on the living room couch as Jack played in the backyard. It was a beautifully peaceful day. The weather still has a crispness to the air, one that makes you tell your kids that they should have a jacket on, but you don't make them wear one when they refuse.
 
Jack played in his camo rain boots with the mud caked on the bottom. They are one of my favorite kid accessories. I've always felt that they embody the nature of my outside boys: carefree, dirty, adventurous. Megan has a few pairs of rain boots, too. They're all some variation of pink, flowers, ponies and lady bugs, but they have just as many (if not more) layers of dirt stuck to all sides.
 
And I absolutely love it.
 
As I watched Jack pick up stones, sticks and worms in the backyard, I noticed that the trees are beginning to bud. Tiny green sprouts are emerging from the seemingly dead-looking branches. I think I remember this particular tree next to our deck bearing berries of some sort; my boys collected them last summer like they were nuggets of gold. The big maple tree near the back of our jungle (which is what my boys have always called our backyard) looks like the branches are bare. But upon closer inspection, signs of spring are emerging there as well.
 
Our grass is just starting to look green again from all of the rain. But without that splash of green, as well as the yellow and white daffodils the previous owners planted years ago, our backyard looks kinda dead. Everything is brown. Branches are mostly bare, allowing us to see the buildings behind our house.
 
But it isn't always like that.

In the dead of summer, our backyard is a gorgeous mural of greens and yellows mixed with sunlight. It's when all of the plants feel most alive. Flowers have bloomed, leaves are lush and full, everything is alive. That's the time that I feel most proud to live here. And when my city-born husband seems to be most proud for the acre of lawn he is now responsible for. Even though it is a thousand times more work than when he lived in the city.

Ben (and Jack) in our backyard last July. Making a home for their new frog, which oddly enough, looks a lot like a trap. Our yard is lush and green, definitely the peek of its beauty.
 
God is the artist of all that beauty. But it is a masterpiece that takes time. A whole year, actually.
 
I kept thinking about the verses in the Bible where Jesus compared Himself to a tree.
 
4 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch
cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in
the vine, so neither can you unless you abide
in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches;
he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears
much fruit, for apart from Me you can do
nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me,
he is thrown away as a branch and dries up;
and they gather them, and cast them into the
fire and they are burned." John 15:4-6
 
God is the vine, I am the branches.
 
If I stay connected to Him, I will bear fruit. If I choose to disconnect myself, I will no longer bloom and grow for my intended purpose.
 
God is the vine, I am the branches.
 
The vine, trees, flowers, plants... they all have a designated life cycle, gently engineered and orchestrated by our loving, Heavenly Father. He manages the seasons, too.
 
I've always loved the fall - perhaps because of the beginning of a school year and fresh starts - but it also signifies a season of death. When all of nature finishes his life cycle in order to begin again. Everything seems to lay dormant during winter and then slowly, slowly, slowly (and even slower if you live in WNY,) life begins to show. Life emerges from death. And in the summertime, life is at its peak.
 
And as much as we might wish summer never to end, we all know: no one season can last forever.
 
My family is going through a unique season right now. I don't know exactly which one I'd categorize it as, but it's definitely not the fullness of summer. Ben does not have the muscle to walk, adjust his body or hold himself up on the toilet by himself. He cannot always make the quick connections he used to. But just like the winters of WNY, it has lasted longer than anyone even expected it. And better, too. Ben can still count, write and tell a joke. He can still whisper to his sister, knowing she will obey whatever he says. He still remembers his hospital stay, our vacations over the past few summers and gets insanely proud when he poops. His smile and the sparkle in his eyes tell us that he is still here, still fighting. I don't know exactly which season it is, but it's definitely a combination of all four, complete with sadness, joy, death, and hope.
 
Of course, beauty can be seen in all of the seasons. Even in the fall, when we watch nature come to the end of its cycle. But I am so humbled by the fact that God always completes a cycle. He never stops mid-way and makes us live in a forever winter (like I've watched Queen Elsa in "Frozen" do over and over and over and over and over.) He brings buds to the lifeless branches and uses them as food for His creation. He brings good from the bad. Life from death.
 
Those verses above continue to say this:
 
10 "If you keep my commands, you will
remain in my love, just as I have kept
my Father's commands and remain in
his love. 11 I have told you this so that
my joy may be in you and that your joy
may be complete. 16 You did not choose
me, but I chose you and appointed you so
that you might go and bear fruit--fruit that
 will last--and so that whatever you
ask in my name the Father will give you."
John 15:10,11,16
 
God will use us for our good. For His glory. To give us the kind of fruit that will last longer than just one season. Fruit that is sweeter and more rewarding than what we could harvest on our own. Fruit that will not only sustain us, but others as well.
 
We just need to stay connected to the Vine.

48 comments:

  1. wow! well said and make tons of sense! we went to the creation museum last summer in Kentucky and we literally spent 4 hours on the inside (amazingly my 1 yr and 3 yr old at the time were amazed by the sites they seen) and another 2 on the outside in the gardens and petting zoo and it was an amzing site. my son is amzed with noah now and he talks about the arc all the time. im actually glad we took that vacation with my grandma, she had a stroke in January and there probably wont be another. point is while walking through you would constantly hear narration and what you wrote reminded me of story I heard while there and, geesh, you are so right on! I hope your little ones enjoyed the day outside and im always glad to hear that ben is doing well still and you have been blessed another day with him. sending lots of prayers, hugs and love your way :) when do ben and jack turn 5?

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    1. That sounds beautiful! The older I get, the more I am amazed at the simple and yet complicated nature of the beauty around us. It appears to manage itself, but that takes more faith than to know the True Creator. I love that my kids appreciate the outdoors (even if it is to mostly hit things with sticks and make a mess!) :) The boys' birthday is a week from today, 5/5. They are SOOOO excited!

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    2. It is their "golden" birthday- turning five on 5-5 so very special this year! Celebrate from sunrise to beyond sunset!

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    3. It is beautiful, if you and your family ever take a road trip Kentucky isn't that far away and you should check it out :) I agree though as you get older you view things differently (nature, even nurture) the changing of seasons and the beauty in it, I even notice the smells of each season, even when I notice the scent of my grandfather (some think I'm crazy but I smell his scent) :). And happy early 5th birthday to the boys :) I'm sure they will celebrate with loads of silly string :) <3

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  2. wow! refreshing! thank you! I am always eager for your posts. God is using you! Look how many people are following you and in turn may choose Christ because of your willingness to be open. THIS is what our walk is all about. Christ glorified! To HIM be the glory!

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  3. Here is my stat posted 12 hrs ago. Thought it was fitting for this message.


    Christine Provenzano
    12 hours ago · Edited
    There are 4 seasons Winter (reaping), Spring (growing), Summer (flourishing), and Fall (sowing). It's inevitable. Not everyday can be a perfect day, if it was, we wouldn't go through our steps of personal development. This was created on purpose. Just another way for God to show us, He is with us every step of the way.

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    1. I just LOVE when God seems to be teaching people many of the same lessons at around the same time! Beautiful! <3

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  4. Mindy...you and I don't know each other, but I literally think of you everyday. I heard about your family from Debby S. Like so many others, I'm praying for you. And I'm humbled by your immense faith in the midst of this difficult trial. A favorite verse I want to share with you..."The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace." Numbers 6:25

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    1. So sorry...I didn't mean to list my name as unknown...I'm Carole.

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  5. Don't let go of Jesus. Whatever you do, don't let go of Jesus.
    Praying for Ben, and for your family.
    God Bless.

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  6. Your strength astounds me. Makes me pause, take time for reflection and reconnect.... to the vine. Thank you for your vulnerability, it's devine. Many prayers sent to you all, especially Sweet Ben.

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  7. Even though we dont know each other. I think of your family constantly. I will continue to pray for ben and hoping he will get his miracle. They do happen i hope ben is one of those people it happens to. Prayer for Ben!!!

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  8. Mindy, thank you for sharing your journey with the world. We first started praying for you all when my cousin Becky Sauer asked that we remember Ben in our prayers. It has been incredible to watch from the other side of the world how God is using your family so powerfully for His kingdom. Thank you for your honesty and the way that even through your own grief you are constantly encouraging others and pointing us all back to Jesus.

    We live in Australia and were just driving through South Australia's Wine Region a few days ago. My eldest son, Micah (he has just turned 5 two weeks ago), on seeing all the vineyards commented: "If Jesus is the vine and we are the branches then it must be a really big vine because there are lots of people who love Jesus." I wanted to encourage you that Jesus IS a "big vine" & he is growing your fruit right around the world because of your faithfulness. We will all keep praying for you.

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    1. That is just beautiful, Hannah. Wisdom from the mouths of babes. It is no surprise that Jesus was always encouraging us to be like the little children. Thanks for sharing <3

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  9. Dear Mindy:
    I ave to thank you for your blog. I have been following it since you began. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers constantly.
    I am a believer, or so I thought I was, but there was always a little flicker of doubt. I am 60 years old and just lost my Dad in October 2010, and my Mom in January 2012. My Mom was my lifeline. I suffer from separation anxiety and abandonment issues ever since I was a child. Even as old as I am, I miss my Mom every day. The little flickers of doubt were there when I thought of seeing my Mom again. I want so much to believe that I will, but you hear so many different things.Your undying faith is amazing and I am beginning to really believe that I will see her again. Ben is such a special boy. Your entire family is special. God bless all of you.
    Betty from Geneva , NY.

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  10. Praying for a summer full of sunshine & laughter for all of the Sauer children. Hoping that Ben has that constant big, beautiful smile on his face as he sees these beautiful days of summer unfold. Praying for you, momma! <3

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  11. Mindy our faith can go through seasons too and I can honestly say after reading your blogs mine is back in bloom after a very long winter.

    We pray for you and Andy and the kids daily and as Olive counts down to her 5th bday (the day after Jack and Ben's) she asks if the boys will have a party and what they will do. Priorities of a (not for much longer) 4 year old. ;)

    God bless you all!

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  12. May 5 is Children's Day in South Korea. :~) I'll be thinking especially of your little ones this year. I'm grateful that the Lord is giving you the words to share your journey with all of us. I'm inspired and encouraged in my own walk with God every time you post. Thank you.

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  13. WE PRAY FOR YOUR FAMILY ALL THE TIME I LOVE THE WAY YOU WRITE ,YOU SHOULD WRITE A BOOK YOU HAVE BEEN THROUGH SO MUCH . YOU HAVE SO MY STRENGTH MORE THAN YOU KNOW . GOD BLESS YOU ALL

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  14. What an inspiration you are Mindy. I too pray for your family each day. I often wonder where you get your strength, I believe that you have shown us. To go through each day would be challenging enough but to be carrying another child, caring for your others and keeping your family focused is just amazing. You are a good mother and wife, stay strong. So many of us wait for your next posting, worried if we don't see something for a few days. Thank you for letting us be a part of your journey, for taking the time to share this experience with your writing. You have friends near and far, I hope that you feel that, we all have grown to love you and your family. I am still hoping for that miracle.

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  15. What a great message that you shared. I always look forward to reading your blogs. I have been following your story for about 2 months now. I think of Ben and your family daily. My heart aches for that little boy of yours. I experienced a great loss in my life 2 and a half years ago. My husband passed away unexpectedly, leaving me with my three young children, My kids were 9, 6, and 5 years old when their daddy passed away. We have had our share pf struggles but we have comfort in knowing that we will be reunited with Eric someday. We couldn't of made it these past couple of years if we didn't know Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior. My youngest, who is 7 now, accepted Jesus in her heart a few weeks ago. I am praying for a miracle for Ben and I will be praying for Ben and your family. I am always waiting to read your posts because you inspire me so much. God Bless your family.

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  16. Mindy, our hearts and thoughts are with you as we continue to pray for your family. I could feel your heart when I met you. Thank you for sharing your words and faith. <3

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  17. Dr John Bergman is a great believer and doctor. ,
    You are doing something to help him. His body is trying to fight back the cancer. Build his immune system . God bless you all.If he still has brain power , what can that mean. He is healing?

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  18. I am amazed and humbled by your faith. I have always said I could never bear what you are experiencing. It is my worst fear. And yet you have loved, shared, and showed God's love even in the midst of your pain. To me, this is evidence more than anything of God's existence and His love for our world. I don't believe God caused Ben's sickness as a part of his plan. In no way was sickness or death ever God's plan. However, I see in your experience that Love will ultimately triumph.

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  19. Mindy - I often read your blogs, sometimes hesitant to click on them - scared of what I might read.......but when I do I never regret it. I was born and raised in WNY and now we are transplanted to Dallas but I do still feel very connected to home. I have not commented on one of your blogs until now because I always felt like I was intruding. This one was different because I feel so connected by the seasons of WNY and I really no longer get that where I currently live. I just want to tell you that I pray for and thin about Ben and your family every day. I too am humbled by your strength of faith and ability to see the beauty around you even if it is in the in-between season there. You are such a beautiful soul and Ben is so very special....your story has touched so many and I am so proud to come from a community that rallies around your family and your little boy. He truly is special. I just want you to know that you, your family and especially Ben make the world a better place. You offer hope, faith and light to a community and beyond.
    God Bless you and your family.
    You are loved.....near and far.
    Nia Emm

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  20. mindy you and ur family are amazing!!, can it be at all possible that his tumor has shrunk will he be taking any test may treatments possibly be available for him now?

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  21. Thank you Mindy for another encouraging and beautiful post. Still praying for you daily. May God continue to give you glimpses of Spring through this Winter! XO Jill Egbert

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  22. My husband and I "accidentally" ordered Bursynski, a documentary DVD on Netflix last week. This Dr's approach/discovery of a non-toxic treatment to treat and often very successfully shrink and sometimes completely cure childhood brain cancer. I'd never heard of him before. Praying for you and your family as you walk this heart wrenching path God has put before you. I only mention this treatment because I immediately thought of you and your little Ben. Praying in AK for you.

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  23. Mindy, that vine will stay with you through every season of life. As it buds, and as it wilts, you will forever be connected. I pray God will continue to give your family peace & comfort in what ever is happing in all your lives. I pray harder and harder every day for his grace, I wear Bens wrist band every day to remind of his love. There is hope, faith & love in him.

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  24. Mindy, your faith is incredible, and that will surely pull you through. I believe that my two daughters go to school with Ben, in Clarence Ctr. They told me about Ben and this blog. I have prayed for him ever since. I also know for sure, that "Jesus is for real" and that "miracles can happen" based on several recent experiences of my own.

    First, my vision was rapidly degrading over the last year, to the point that I could no longer safely drive. At the same time, my thoughts got foggy and I experienced much memory loss. My Dr. prescribed me an MRI at the Dent center. There, I was given a written test prior, and I got about half of the questions wrong. After and during the MRI, the staff at Dent appeared to get very animated. It was discovered that I had what may be the largest brain tumor ever in the city of Buffalo. All the Dr's, found it hard to believe that I had walked in on my own 2 feet.

    A couple days later, one heck of a surgical team at Roswell got the tumor out in a 6 hour operation. Thank the good Lord, it turned out not to be cancerous. Immediately after the operation, my vision came back and is now almost perfect.
    I later took the same test that I had previously done so poorly on at the Dent ctr. and got every question right.

    An odd thing was, I have been reading through Bibles over the last several years and was nearing the end of my fourth time through. The last section I read, just 2 days before the tumor discovery, was Mark 2, the story of the paralyzed boy, lowered through the roof of a house, for Jesus to heal, by 4 men.

    What is strange, was the day after my surgery, a very kind minister came in the ICU and prayed for me. He told me that his sermon that Sunday had been Mark 2, and that his audience had actually acted it out with 4 men carrying a boy on a board. Coincidence?, I think not.

    Another miracle happened to me on Easter week. At church, my brother in law had showed a video which depicted and "old rugged Cross". I had recently saw a similar beam up in the mow of our back barn, and thought it would be cool to make one of our own. The problem was, I needed another beam for the horizontal section of the Cross.

    As I walked up to our front barn, where my workshop is, I thought to myself that if Jesus wants me to build the Cross, he will let me find another an other identical beam, up above my workshop, that I thought might be left over from a prior project. I would need to cut it down to form the cross horizontal section.

    Otherwise, I would use the single beam that I found to make a project for my wife. This is where the story gets weird. When I climbed up the ladder to that mow, I did not find the identical beam that I was looking for. However, there atop some plywood I had recently put up there, was a shorter, but same cross-section beam. Needless to say, I made our Cross (no need to saw) and erected it behind our house. Later I found out that the Cross size, including it's 1.61 vertical to horizontal section ratio, exactly matches the real one according to several on-line sources.

    No one can convince me now that Jesus is not for real and that miracles can not happen.

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    1. What an awesome story, Mike! I believe this is how God speaks to us-through 'coincidences'-which I now call God-incidences! We only have to be quiet enough & have our hearts open enough to hear His voice amidst the clamor of the World. Thank you for sharing your true miracles & the 'Evidence of things unseen' ~Heb. 11:1

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  25. I was just reading your blog. I saw a reply you made about the boys' birthday coming up. Mine is also May 5! That day will be extra special for me as I think of your beautiful sons! Your family stays in my thoughts daily. God Bless!

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    1. Cinco de Mayo! What a great day for a birthday ;) The boys were born on our second wedding anniversary. There's NO way my husband could forgot either date! Happy Birthday!

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  26. Mindy~just wondering if you know that 'Heaven is Real' has been made into a movie & it is showing at AMC Maple Ridge 8 where they have fully reclining leather seats~so the whole family could watch the story together in total comfort.
    Still praying for Ben & all of you. God Bless!

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  27. https://screen.yahoo.com/inspiration/deadly-virus-saves-students-life-235949672.html

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  28. Everything you write is beautiful and should be made into a book one day to help children with cancer . Ben will get his miracle, sometimes they aren't the most obvious ones but it will happen , everyday together with our family is one . He will meet his new sister and hopefully have many more great memories to keep here with him : ) God is good

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  29. While many have written to you, I think there are countless others who haven't written but are just as deeply touched by your sharing. We have not met, but I feel such a compelling connection to you based on being a believer in Jesus Christ, being a parent, and being a fellow traveler on life's journey. Your writing is transparently honest and heartfelt, just like the writers of the book of Psalms.

    I cry for you and your family. At the same time I know with 100% certainty that your family is loved by God and that He will never leave you or forsake you. He is with you and for you. He gives strength and peace, and the hope of heaven (and by "hope" Scripture means "guarantee").

    I know Ben is very prayed for and is going to be healed. What we don't know is if the healing is going to take place here on earth or in heaven. We want the healing to take place here on earth, but either way God is full of mercy and grace.

    I pray that you will continue to see blessings in each day, moments of humor, and an overwhelming sense that God is your refuge and strength. It is in the most challenging seasons of life that we can more clearly experience the nearness of God and the comfort of Scripture.

    Thank you for sharing your family and faith with all of us.

    Prayerfully,
    Naomi Garwood

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  30. http://www.jw.org/en/publications/magazines/wp20140701/

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  31. Mindy, if you ever come across the book Grandpa green... please read it...I read it with my boys...it truly makes our hearts smile each time we do ��

    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/grandpa-green-lane-smith/1100225765?ean=9781596436077

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  32. Hi Mindy,
    I wanted to share with you another book that you have likely already read. I read it right after I got home from Roswell following my own brain tumor operation. The book is "Cancer Battle Plan" by Anne Frahm. In the book, she tells how she brought herself back 100% from stage 4 cancer, after the Dr's. had given up on her after surgery, chemo and radiation. She also tells how her faith in Jesus played a key role in her "miraculous" healing. The method she used was "nutritional therapy". The cancer had spread to her spine and broken it. Now she is all better.

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  33. It always drives me crazy when people quote Jeremiah 29:11 without any thought to the context. Jeremiah 29:12-13 says, "In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me." And John 11:40 reads, "Didn't I tell you that you would see God's glory if you believe?" The first promise was made to a group of people who had just been told a couple of verses earlier that they will be in captivity for 70 years; the second, a reminder to a sweet lady who's brother Lazarus had just died. As believers and followers of Jesus, we are definitely not promised that life will always be easy or "good." BUT, we can confidently cling to the promise that if we seek Him, we will find Him. He faithfully reveals more of Himself and His glory to those who want to see Him; He is the God who delivers us from captivity and brings death to Life! And THAT is some good news.

    I am praying for sweet Ben; but also praying that God continues to use you and your story to be a part of bringing Life and freedom to others as they turn to the Lord as a result of your faithfulness and honesty!

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  34. I am a middle school boy from New York and very young but I am very touched and interested about Ben's story. I want you to know that ever since the "Blue4Ben" day at my school I have been checking everyday on this blog for a new post updating on how Ben is doing or anything else you post about. I also am wearing a blue bracelet everyday until I find out that Ben's miracle has been given to him. I hope you see this comment. #prayforBen

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    1. I am so grateful for your support! It's nice to know that such a variety of people are praying for Ben on a daily basis. Thanks, Joe Smoe! ;)

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  35. Hi Mindy,
    I was wondering if you've ever heard of the book I Love You the Purplest by Barbara Joosse? I have identical twin boys too, who are a little over a year younger than your boys. I also have a daughter too, but she's 2 years older....anyway, this book is the best! It tells of a mother's fishing adventure with her two boys. One boy is cautious, thoughtful, and careful, and one brother is quick and feisty. It totally reminds me of my boys and their differences. The mother relates her love of her boys to red and blue and how together they make purple. I tell anyone who will listen about this book and how any mother with more than one child can relate to loving her children the same, no matter their differences. Please please please read this book with your boys if you haven't already! It brings tears to my eyes EVERY time I read it. I cannot get your family and your boys out of my mind. Prayers from Louisiana....from one twin boy mom to another.

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  36. Dearest Mindy,
    My name is Donna Stewart. I as well as so so many others are so moved by your sharing God's very difficult journey with everyone. You have helped restore Faith in so many people!
    I would love to do something for You and Your Family!
    I saw that Ben and Jack will be "5" on Monday!
    I would be honored to photograph/video your family in a very non intrusive manner! Just Ben and the children's voices and Andy and you ......
    I am available 24/7 for you and your family!
    If you would consider my offer, simply call or text me at 716.984.2050
    Any photos/video would be solely yours Mindy!
    I just want so bad to do something for you and your family!
    With much love,
    Donna Stewart

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  37. I will keep your sweet baby in my prayers. I love this post that you wrote. What a great analogy. Sending you love.

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  38. I am so sorry about your loss. There are no words that can take away your pain. As I read your blog, tears welled up in my eyes and an overwhelming feeling of sadness. Your blog brings tears to my eyes . My deepest condolences to you and your family.

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