amberdover

The High King Lives

Don’t Snuff Out the Light November 17, 2015

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Hello Dear Ones, it’s been awhile but I’m still kickin’. You know, the world is a scary place sometimes…especially with terrorist attacks and such. There’s a lot of darkness, and we have access to that darkness 24/7. It is broadcast through our screens and airwaves. As I look at my little family I feel pretty small in this world, but through Christ, we are a light. We try to share love and hope. Sometimes the darkness attacks us. Sometimes it is an unwelcomed guest that pretends to be family. But by Christ’ strength, the darkness is held back. The love and light of Jesus flickers against a dark and scary world.

Dear ones, I implore you to hold to the light. Don’t snuff it out. I’m sure my readers aren’t terrorists, and that you are all the best of people. After all, you have a lot of grace to keep track of me. So how in the world could caring honest people snuff out the light?  Well, here are some ways:

  • Focus on the darkness. Let it consume you. Only watch the bad news, until anxiety robs you of the light.
  • Take your fears and anger out on others. Let fear drive you to hate.
  • Keep yourself so busy and stressed that you take it out on your family.
  • Don’t show love, peace, and joy. Don’t look for the light. Don’t surround yourself with light.
  • Don’t get to know the light and don’t let Him be your source. Avoid Jesus.
  • Bury your head in the sand. Shut people out completely. Hide from the world and close yourself off.
  • Don’t answer the plight of the fatherless and the widow, the sick and the poor. Care only about yourself and your wants. Don’t get involved.

I am preaching to the choir. When life is scary it is very tempting for me to run and hide. I put up walls. It is by God’s grace that he sends people and circumstances to break them down. Jesus nudges me out of the door. So the above list is all about ways you can snuff out the light. I really don’t want you or I to do those things. So how do we shine the light? How do we be the candle in the darkness? How are we to warm this cold world? Do and be the opposite of the first list. Here’s how to be the light:

  • First, know Jesus intimately. Accept Christ’ free gift of salvation and let Jesus fill you with His love, hope, and peace. Allow Jesus to be your source of light and life, because HE IS the LIGHT and Life. (Matthew 4:16, John 8:12) *All these verses are at the bottom.

https://amberdover.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/inspirational-wednesday-part-two-the-power-of-the-cross/ (How to meet Jesus)

  • Focus on what is good and true. Focus on the light. When you hear and see bad news, take it to Jesus. Pray, and accept what you can and can’t do in the situation. Then let it go.

(Matthew 6:22-23, Philippians 4:8)

  • Give yourself time to breathe…time to enjoy the simple and beautiful things in life. Enjoy your family. Love and forgive them. You need their support. The world is too dark to face it alone. Don’t lose your loved ones over petty things. (Ephesians 5:21)
  • Take your fears and anger to Jesus. Pray and ask Christ to help you to forgive and love. Abide in Jesus and get rooted in His love. Let God’s love assure you that He is in control and God is bigger than any of your fears. (1 John 4:18)
  • Even though you’ve been hurt, don’t put up walls. Keep yourself open to people. Be involved in community and shine Jesus’ light to as many people as you can. You need people, because you are HUMAN. God made you for relationship and you are stronger when you are surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ.
  • Take your focus off of yourself and help the needy. Feed the hungry, minister to the sick, and love the abandoned and unloved. Get involved in the causes God calls you to. When the world is dark, there is always someone who needs help. Help them.

Matthew 5:14-16 KJV

“14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

No matter what evil comes into our world or tempts us, if we belong to Jesus then we have light. There is hope. I know it is hard to see hope when all we hear is bad news. But if you look for the light you will find it, because when it is pitch dark the light shines brighter…even little candles. You and I may be little candles, but we are bright. I love you all, Dear ones. Don’t snuff out the light. Shine.

God bless and remember the High King lives! ~Amber Dover

 

https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2015/11/mourning-with-those-who-mourn-looking-for-answers-to-the-terror-in-paris/

Suggested Songs

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Arms that Hold the Universe ~ Fee

I’ll Be the Light~ Colton Dixon

While We Sing ~Leeland

Let it Go~ Tenth Avenue North

Forgiven~ Sanctus Real

Verses

Matthew 4:16 KJV

“16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.”

John 8:12 KJV

“12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

Matthew 6:22-23

“22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”

Philippians 4:8

“8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

Ephesians 5:21 KJV

“21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”

1 John 4:18

“18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”

 

 

God’s Grace Empowers Us July 30, 2015

Dear ones, today I want to talk to you about legalism and grace. What do these terms mean? What does scripture say about it? I ask the Lord to take away our misconceptions and to shine His light on the Truth. May he type through me.

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Titus 3:4-7 Amplified Bible (AMP)

“4 But when the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Savior to man [as man] appeared,

He saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but because of His own pity and mercy, by [the] cleansing [bath] of the new birth (regeneration) and renewing of the Holy Spirit,

Which He poured out [so] richly upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior.

[And He did it in order] that we might be justified by His grace (by His favor, wholly undeserved), [that we might be acknowledged and counted as conformed to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action], and that we might become heirs of eternal life according to [our] hope.”

I want to talk to you as a fellow student. I have worn the many masks of legalism. It invades all areas of life and sucks away the joy until you feel dead inside. Let me clear up a misconception before we begin.

Grace does not mean sinning all you want with no consequences. And having standards does not mean you are a legalist. By all means, follow the speed limit, don’t murder, don’t steal. The difference between legalism and grace is found in the heart…not necessarily outward actions.

Grace- unmerited favor and mercy.

Romans 3:23-24Amplified Bible (AMP)

“23 Since all have sinned and are falling short of the honor and glory [a]which God bestows and receives.

24 [All] are justified and made upright and in right standing with God, freely and gratuitously by His grace (His unmerited favor and mercy), through the redemption which is [provided] in Christ Jesus,” 

For more info on justification and the meaning of other important Biblical terms check out this post:

https://amberdover.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/inspirational-wednesday-part-two-the-power-of-the-cross/

Legalism is:

1. Emphasis on the letter rather than on the spirit of the law;

2. Belief in salvation by obedience to the law rather than by the grace of God or by faith;

3. Undue stress on legal details without balancing considerations of justice and mercy.

Legalism only demands that the law be satisfied.”

~Grace that Breaks the Chains pg 27  (originally taken from The Dictionary of Religious Terms)

  •           Legalism exalts man as god. The gospel of legalism says “I can earn my salvation.” “I can keep my salvation.” “I can please God on my own.” “I am good.” “I am righteous.”
  •                The gospel of Grace says “Jesus is my salvation.” “Jesus keeps me.” “Jesus is my goodness.” “Jesus is my righteousness.” “Without Jesus I can do nothing, but with Jesus I can do all things.”
  •          Grace empowers us to live right, through relationship with Christ.
  • Legalism chains us to the impossible task of being good in our own strength. It inflates our pride when we do well. It brings us into the pit of depression when we fail.

Grace or legalism? Which is in your heart? Look at the root. Are you trying to earn God’s favor by your good works, or are your good works the result of your love relationship with God?

True Christians know that we are saved by grace, but even Christians can be legalistic. We know that grace through Jesus’ blood initially saves us, but then we think to live the Christian life we must try hard and do good works. Jesus saved us but we don’t expect Him to sanctify us. We look to our own strength. We think our good works will KEEP God’s favor. Dear ones, that is backwards. It is God’s grace that enables us to live right. It is the blood of Jesus that sanctifies us continually. We can not do it on our own.

Ephesians 2:8-9Amplified Bible (AMP)

“8 For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved ([a]delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God;

Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself.]”

“Man was never designed nor expected to keep God’s commands on his own, nor was strict adherence to law ever God’s way of making man righteous. It has always been by faith. Seeking to achieve right standing with God by religious performance would be like expecting a mirror to wash the dirt off your face. The purpose of the mirror is not to clean you, but to reveal the dirt. In the same way, ‘through the Law comes the knowledge of sin’ (Romans 3:20), not the power to remove it.

~Grace that Breaks the Chains pg 28

So often we miss the purpose of the law, because we miss the Person who made the law (meaning the commands given in scripture). The Law, the feasts, the Sabbath…everything was made to point to God, to Jesus. Even in the New Testament…Jesus’ teachings, the parables, communion, baptism, putting on the armor of God…all made to point us to Jesus. The law shows us that we are helpless without God. We are missing something. We are in desperate need of God. If we try to follow the letter of the law so we can be good people or even to earn God’s favor, then we have missed the point.

James 2:10Amplified Bible (AMP)

“10 For whosoever keeps the Law [as a] whole but stumbles and offends in one [single instance] has become guilty of [breaking] all of it.”

The Bible makes it clear that we as humans are unable to completely keep the law. We will fail. So why did God give us commands if we can’t keep them? Friends, God is good. He loves us. He wants us to see that He is what we are missing. Humans need God’s help to live. We need relationship with God. We can not be righteous, but Jesus can be righteous for us. Jesus sacrificed Himself so His blood will cover our sin. Truly without God we are naked and in the dark, with no way of turning on the light and clothing ourselves. Only God can turn on the light and clothe us. God gave the law so we would turn to Him for help. So we would realize we are not god. We were never mean’t to live independently from God. We were never mean’t to do everything in our own strength.

Galatians 3:24-26 KJV

“24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”

Galatians 3:3 Amplified Bible (AMP)

“3 Are you so foolish and so senseless and so silly? Having begun [your new life spiritually] with the [Holy] Spirit, are you now reaching perfection [by dependence] on the flesh?”

Acts 13:38-39 KJV

“38 Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:

39 And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.”

Romans 3:19-20 Amplified Version

“19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that [the murmurs and excuses of] every mouth may be hushed and all the world may be held accountable to God.

20 For no person will be justified (made righteous, acquitted, and judged acceptable) in His sight by observing the works prescribed by the Law. For [the real function of] the Law is to make men recognize and be conscious of sin [[a]not mere perception, but an acquaintance with sin which works toward repentance, faith, and holy character].”

Romans 5:19-21King James Version (KJV)

“19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:

21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”

 

Legalism is a deceptive tool of the enemy. Legalism appears to be holy, but it is rotten to the core. Do you seem good on the outside but inside you are dying? Is your church a hateful place with no life in it? Are you losing members to the world? You might be legalistic. You see Legalism may seem to work for a bit. When you parent a child with an iron fist and no grace, they may be compliant for awhile, but inside legalism will spawn rebellion, bitterness, and defeat. Legalism simply does not work.

I get it. Some of us are scared of grace because we’ve seen the term misused. The world and carnal Christians have used “grace” as a way to excuse all manner of sin. Maybe you’ve been hurt by someone who said “Hey, don’t judge me.” The subject of grace has been horribly abused and so many misunderstand the meaning because of that. Dear ones, please don’t miss out on the power and goodness of Jesus’ grace. When someone truly accepts God’s grace they will live a beautiful empowered life through it. Abiding with Jesus by His grace enables us to live righteously. We will want to obey his commands because we love Him. Perfection won’t happen until Heaven, but our desires will be to follow Jesus.

Romans 6:13-15King James Version (KJV)

“13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.

14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.

Romans 7:5-7King James Version (KJV)

“5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.

But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.

What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”

What separates legalism from grace is our position. Where do we operate from? Do we operate in the Spirit or in the flesh? Are we in Christ or not?

Romans 8:2-4King James Version (KJV)

“2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

The Spirit is not some mystical force or a drug that gets you high. The Spirit is a PERSON. The Spirit is God. We walk in the Spirit by spending time with Jesus. So we see that Grace and living in the Spirit all comes back to relationship. The law means nothing without relationship. Its job is to point us to relationship with Christ.

Galatians 5:17-18 KJV

“17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.”

Hebrews 7:19 KJV

“19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.”

Hebrews 10:1 Amplified

“For since the Law has merely a rude outline (foreshadowing) of the good things to come—instead of fully expressing those things—it can never by offering the same sacrifices continually year after year make perfect those who approach [its altars].”

What is a better hope? What are the good things to come? Jesus answers them both. He fulfills the law. I enjoy the Biblical feasts (like Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles), but I know that celebrating them will not help me earn God’s favor. The purpose of the feasts are to point us to Jesus. I enjoy the celebrations when I use them as a way to think of Christ and fellowship with Him. There was a time in my life that I saw the feasts in a legalistic way. It’s funny because I completely lost my joy during that time and began to dislike the feasts. They became burdensome to me.  Have you ever done this with God’s commands or spiritual disciplines?

Let’s get in the New Testament shall we. Maybe your devotion time or how often you pray has become a burden because you believe these things will make God like you more? Maybe you feel that when you sin or skip church etc… that God all of a sudden dislikes you? Dear one, I’ve been there. Legalism can come into any denomination and it can invade any area of your life. I have seen legalism take over my parenting. I have seen it take over my self esteem…whether as puffed up pride or insecurity (which is just pride in another form). Legalism takes our eyes off of Christ and puts it on ourselves.

Basically this is what Satan did when he tried to overthrow God. He kept saying “I will” “I will”. Satan put his focus on himself and his power. He said in his heart that he did not need God. Then he fell and came to Earth where he convinced humanity that we do not need God. But it’s a lie. We were made by and for God. We are diseased without Him. We are cursed without God. The only cure IS God. Jesus Christ came to be your cure. He is God the Son, a part of the God-head (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, 3 in one, the Trinity). Dear Christian, you were not saved so you could do it all yourself.

We must give every bit of our lives to Christ. We must have relationship with Jesus and operate out of that relationship. We must walk in the Spirit. It’s simple. Be with Jesus. Spend time with Him. Talk to Him. Get to know Him. I pray we won’t miss this simple yet profound truth. I’m there with you. Please pray for me as I pray for you. God wants to be known. He loves us.

God bless and remember the High King lives! ~Amber Dover

 

This is only part 1. Go to the website for all parts.

http://lifetoday.org/video/encased-in-grace-part-1/

 

Stand Up for Sam July 8, 2015

Hello dear ones! I’d like to tell you about my friend Sam Beman. Sam loves to make people laugh, and he has a heart for God. Sadly, Sam has cancer, and needs help with his medical bills. So the community and many Christians in this area have gotten together to raise money for Sam. It’s been a privilege to see how many people care about Sam. Sam is still young and he’s newly married with several stepchildren. I know God can heal him. Recently, the best Christian comedians got together to throw a comedy show for Sam’s benefit. It was called “Stand Up for Sam”. These guys didn’t get paid for this. Tim Hawkins stopped his vacation to come. Christ Community Church allowed them to use their facilities for free. I believe $30,000 was raised at this one event. Chemo is expensive. Anywho, it was an awesome event for an awesome guy. Our prayers are with you Sam!

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Please pray for Sam and donate if you can. Link to donate here: http://www.gofundme.com/8yhc4o

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This was Leeland and Michael’s first comedy show.

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Here’s me with Gordon Douglas and Clayburn Cox

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A video about Sam’s fight:

Here’s an article with more info about Sam: http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/2011/01/01/1403266_member-lakewood-baptist-church.html

A video of him a couple years ago:

The news story: http://www.wtvm.com/story/29292081/comedians-unite-at-fundraiser-for-comic-battling-cancer

God bless and remember the High King lives! ~Amber Dover

 

Knit Together: Leeland’s Unmedicated Birth Story April 28, 2015

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My natural labor story about how God’s timing is perfect. Nothing is impossible with Jesus! Let’s go back a lil over three weeks ago.

Where do I begin? Hmmmm…
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Labor. Expectations and reality. I wasn’t scared about labor, surprisingly. After years of infertility and then God’s blessing of a miraculous pregnancy, you’d think that I’d cherish being pregnant. I thought I would. But I was miserable. I just wanted to have the baby. I was sick of false labor and feeling icky all the time. Plus, I didn’t feel an immediate bond with Leeland while I was pregnant. My husband was smitten with the baby in my womb. I just wanted to cry all the time. Physically and emotionally I was struggling. Labor and delivery was my salvation. I longed to go to the other side of the hospital…that beautiful place where women went in with huge bellies and came out in wheelchairs holding lil bundles of joy. That was my Emerald City…

When I hit 37 weeks (full term these days), I was ready for an early delivery. I ate weird foods and tried strange things to go into labor. I begged and prayed for God to bring the baby during spring break. I prayed for my water to break. I wasn’t worried about natural labor so much. I was more concerned with how I’d bond with Leeland once he was born and how I could parent two kids. The thought of cloth diapering and caring for a newborn overwhelmed me. Would I remember how to do it? There’s nine years between my boys. Would it be like riding a bike?

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38 and a half weeks. I drug myself to the appointment with my midwife, Nicole. I was miserable and she could tell. The false labor had dilated me some but still no baby. It seemed like the baby would never come. Leeland was already bigger than Michael and I began to wonder if I could push out a bigger baby…without pain meds. I couldn’t sleep at night and Leeland’s head had been so low for so long, that walking was difficult and I spent most of my time in the bathroom. Did God care about my prayers? I felt like He wasn’t listening to me.

I cried out to God, in my head. That morning in my devotions I had read Romans 8:28 in the Amplified version. I hoped that it was a sign. Indeed it was one of many that day. God was speaking but I wasn’t fully aware until after.

“We are assured and know that [[a]God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.” (emphasis mine)

God had heard me all along. He was waiting for the perfect timing. I felt encouraged when Nicole told me that I had dilated more and my waters were bulging during contractions. She told me to go walking to bring on labor. That was 10:30 Thursday morning. I was on a mission. Chris took off from his classes, we grabbed lunch, and went straight to the park. I walked a path of flowers for two hours. Michael walked with me some. We took a break in between to give Michael (our oldest) to my friend Carrie. Praise God it wasn’t spring break, because Carrie was out of town that week and we had no backup plan for Michael.

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Mom got off work and met us at the park (another God thing: Mom was off work). Her and Chris watched me walk. I had my mp3 player on. “Almost There” from The Princess and the Frog came on. Another sign but I wasn’t sure. I took my shoes off. The contractions still felt like Braxton Hicks, but they were coming more frequently. I wasn’t in pain. I just felt miserable and exhausted. “Miles and miles in my bare feet”…a song by the Civil Wars played as I decided to walk in the grass. People stared. A woman pointed to the flowers and said my baby would like them. So I picked some flowers for a keepsake.

After two hours, I was sad that my water had not broken (I’m glad it didn’t now). I had no clue if the contractions were doing anything. It had started to rain. We decided to drive to the hospital and see if labor and delivery would check me. I talked to a nurse and explained. They told me to come on in. I worried that I didn’t look like I was in pain and they’d send me home. Mom said I looked miserable to her. I was dilated to about a 4 and I wasn’t hurting. I had only gotten to a 3 with Michael and that put me in tears. I thought that maybe my pain tolerance had went up significantly. Yeah, little did I know!
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I was sad when I found out that I had not dilated any further. I was scared they’d send me home. But I was contracting a lot (which was the norm during my third trimester anyways). The midwife decided to moniter me and then have me walk another hour. Yes…ANOTHER hour. I laid on my back to be monitered and it started to hurt. I cried a bit. I did not hurt so much when I was standing. My mom and hubby walked with me. I was super tired and at times the contractions stopped me in my tracks.

I called my doula/ best friend, Hannah, and she prepared to come if they checked me in. Nicole came in and checked me. I had dilated to a lil over 4. She decided to check me in to the hospital. I praised God that the midwife wasn’t sending me home. My mom got out a list of encouraging scriptures that I had written for labor. She read them to me when I was being monitered and hurting from lying on my back. I walked around the room and got on a birthing ball. I told the nurses and the midwife about the miracle of Leeland, how I was told I couldn’t have more kids. God was glorified and that makes me happy. Hannah had already arrived and she brought a box of coffee for Mom and Chris. What a blessing she was.
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The contractions were getting stronger. I talked in between them. It was nice to sit on the birthing ball. It was after nine pm and I had not dilated any further. My midwife was frank with me. I could be there laboring all night and exhausting myself, or they could break my water and see if I’d progress. I was nervous. I didn’t want any interventions and I was scared of opening the doors for complications and a c-section. Once again God’s sovereign hand was in my labor. I asked Nicole and the nurse to step out so I could pray with my support team (Chris, Mom, and Hannah). Hannah prayed. There was a peace in the room but I was still scared of the pain to come and the unknown. My water had been broken with Michael but only after receiving an epidural. Hannah and Nicole let me know that I could use low doses of pain meds to take the edge off if I needed it. The thought was comforting, and I agreed to have my water broken.

I got in the bed so they could break my water. Nicole assured me that this was the least painful part. As the fluid gushed I remembered one of the verses Mom had read. It said God would be with me through the waters. I rolled to my side so the contractions wouldn’t hurt as bad. Then I began to get sick and to throw up. The contractions started to become very strong and painful. It hit me that my pain tolerance was not that great. The real deal had started. The contractions before were nothing compared to these. I could not see these as birthing embraces or waves. I had told the nurse that I was calling contractions “intense” not “painful”. Yeah, that went out the door. These hurt. As I threw up more fluid gushed out. I got scared and I worried about Leeland in there without fluid. Nicole told me that Leeland was doing great. I could hear his strong heart beat.

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I started to wimper and tense up. My support team surrounded me. I started to cry out and everyone began telling me to breathe. Nicole kept telling me to relax my forehead. I tried to focus on their voices instead of the pain. I could still talk in between contractions. I asked Nicole what came next and how we’d know I was progressing. She calmly said that my “demeanor” would change as I transitioned into the last stage of labor. Yeah, I’m glad she didn’t explain any further. You’ll see why. Anywho, Hannah encouraged me to visualize to get my focus off the pain. I could barely think of what to visualize. I was not doing well on my own and the online birthing classes weren’t doing much good. I praise God that I had cheerleaders there to tell me how to breathe and think, because I was not able to think much on my own. I did manage to visualize my son Michael saying “I love you Mommy”. I could barely hold on to that image but I tried very hard to focus on it. I also focused on the voices around me. At that point I was able to get through the contractions and rest in between. My midwife left to go to the bathroom and get something to eat. Chris held my hand, Hannah sat beside him, and my mom was on the other side. Nicole had not been gone long when it happened…my “demeanor” changed.

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Transition. I could no longer visualize. All I could do was scream. I had never imagined such pain. My vision went blurry. I was in another world. I could hear them telling me to calm down…to breathe. But I couldn’t focus anymore. My insides were moving…convulsing…pushing. There was no thought of medication. There was no time for that. This was happening and nothing could stop it.

I sounded like a banchee. I had never heard such an animalistic cry come from my throat. It was raw. It terrified my husband. It would’ve been bad if my son was in the room. Again, praise God that Carrie wasn’t out of town. I squeezed Chris’ hand as if to break it. I cried out “I can’t breathe!” I screamed “I think I’m pushing something”. And God was there. Hannah knew from her own natural labor experience that I had transitioned. She called the nurse frantically and told them that she thought I had transitioned and was pushing. She said my “demeanor” had changed. I screamed really loud and the nurses could hear me. My midwife Nicole rushed from the bathroom and a whole bunch of people hurried into the room.
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The next thing I knew, they were pulling my legs apart and sliding me down the bed. My midwife was shocked that I had already transitioned. She could see Leeland’s head. All of these people (several nurses I didn’t know) were telling me to push. My body kept convulsing and it was like an alien was inside. It was an unworldly experience. I was worried that I’d curse during labor and ruin my witness. That wasn’t a problem. I could only manage to cry out to God and I kept saying “God” and Jesus” and “Help me”. I could hear Hannah saying “He is here. He’s with you. You’re doing it. You’re having your natural birth!” My husband was silent but he held my hand still. My mom kept repeating what the midwife had said before “breathe Amber. Relax your forehead.”

I kept screaming and pushing back on the bed. Then the strangers started fussing at me. They couldn’t safely get the baby if I was lifting my bottom off the bed and pushing away. They told me to hold my legs and push.I kept wondering why they couldn’t hold my legs for me. Why were they so upset at me? Why were they telling me to calm down and to stop screaming? Didn’t they know I was in pain! Then Nicole said something that helped. She told me to take all the energy I had from screaming and put it into pushing…to focus…that I was going to have this baby. And somehow I grasped onto her words. Despite the pain, I began to channel my screaming into pushing. And then…

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The ring of fire I had heard about. It’s real. The baby’s head crowning…coming through the birth canal…ready to come out. It got stuck there for a moment as I rested. It WAS like fire. The verse came to my mind…that God would be with me through the fire. Leeland’s head came out and I heard everyone talking about it. Labor really was work (pun intended)! Surely, I was done. He was here. But no I was not done. They told me on the next contraction to push out his shoulders. I couldn’t believe there was more. I was tired. I didn’t have any more to give. Jesus is our strength during weakness. One more push and I felt Leeland come out. I actually felt him. I had not felt Michael much because of the epidural. The feeling was a rush of relief. It was like a sigh…a cool breeze in a sweltering desert. And then they put his little body on top of mine. And we bonded. I fell in love completely. No more fears. This was my child. I had went through fire for him. I’d die for him. I had survived. I was in awe. My body actually reached that threshold of pain and I survived. I knew instantly it was all God. He had carried me through. I was weak but Christ was my strength.

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Every birth story is different. Many women say that natural birth leaves you feeling like super woman…like you can conquer the world. I did not personally feel this way. Immediately afterwards I flinched as the midwife massaged my uterus. I still cringe at needles. I was not stronger. I still felt weak. Instead, I knew that my God can do anything. I knew that God had never left me. He was there all along orchestrating every step. The God who created the stars, had knit my baby inside my womb. He had delayed my labor until I was in the hospital where I felt safe. His timing is perfect.

It was a blessing that my water had not broken at the park or at home as I tried to naturally induce labor. Here’s why: I delivered only an hour after my water was broken. Everyone was surprised by how fast it went. Had I been anywhere else when my water broke then I would not have made it to the hospital in time and I would not have had my support team to get me through. God used my team (Mom, Chris, Hannah, & Nicole) to help me labor. They never once offered an epidural or acted like I couldn’t handle a natural birth. I held on to their voices for strength.
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Leeland was born at 10:47 PM, about 12 hours since my prenatal appointment that morning. Hannah had time to go home and breastfeed her own baby. Mom was able to go home and get decent sleep before work the next day. Leeland was 7 lbs and 1 oz. He was 19 and a half inches long. I was able to breastfeed right away and it almost brought tears to my eyes. God causes the barren womb to rejoice. He brings life where there was death. Miraculous!
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Leeland was swollen from birth. He slimmed down a lot later.
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Mom held Leeland then had to leave. Poor kid looks like he was in a fight.

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Well, I looked like I had been in a fight too. Compare the after pic of this birth compared to my medicated birth with Michael. I recovered faster though than I did with the medicated birth. Also I didn’t tear where most women tear. I only needed three stitches but in a different spot. I was given an episiotomy with Michael but not with Leeland. I had a lot more energy after my unmedicated birth. So although I look rough, it was better later.
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Hannah was awesome and ran to Krystals to buy me a meal. I savored french fries and being able to drink Coke again! 🙂 Hannah thought that was funny. Hence the picture of me eating fries. I am so thankful for my “doula”. Hannah was such a blessing to us all. Her experience gave me the courage to pursue a natural birth.

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Chris, my sweet hubby, with Leeland.
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So are you wondering about natural birth? I’d say if I can do it then anyone can but that’s not exactly right. It’s better to say that with God anyone can do it. Here are the three most important things that got me through an unmedicated birth, and they have nothing to do with breathing and meditation.

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1. A close relationship with Jesus~ God gave me strength. I was comforted each step of the way as I prayed and in the last bit, as I cried out to God. The Lord spoke to me in lil ways through out the experience. He used His word, other believers, and the beauty of creation to help me along.

2. A good birth team ~ I was super blessed to have my favorite people with me for Leeland’s birth. My mom and Chris were there for Michael’s birth as well. They are my heroes and have always encouraged me. Then I had my best friend Hannah as a doula. Her experience was a huge help. It’s very important that the people on your team actually believe in and support your natural birth. They need to be positive people who will cheer you on rather than pity you or bring you down. They need to know how to cheer you on and to make sure that the don’t offer pain meds at the first sign of discomfort. My team did mention low dose pain meds as an option but they never talked about the big stuff like an epidural. They knew I was opposed to that. All of them were aware of my birth plan. My midwife Nicole completed the team. She never tried to push me into anything. She respected my wishes. She wasn’t afraid to instruct me even when I was in so much pain I didn’t want to listen. She showed tough love. Her lil tips like relaxing my forehead and focusing my screaming energy into pushing, gave me what I needed to succeed. I held on to those little things. She broke through my bubble and helped me focus.

3. A safe place~ Whenever animals give birth they find a nice quiet and safe space. My safe place was the hospital. I felt most comfortable there. I had toured the hospital many months before and I loved everything about it. The staff were friendly. We were able to warm the room and adjust the lighting. It felt like a spa. I would not have felt as safe at home or anywhere else. It was quiet and peaceful.

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So those are my three tips. Do you plan on having a natural birth? Have you had one before? What was your experience? How did you feel afterwards? Please leave me some comment love. If you’ve been encouraged by this post I’d love to know.

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Would I have a natural birth again, even though it was painful? I think so. If God wanted us to have more kids. It’s not easy but I believe it’s worth it. There was something supernatural and very spiritual about feeling the whole process.
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I feel like I have a fierce and strong bond with Leeland because I walked through fire for him. I have a strong love for Michael as well. I’m not discounting his medicated birth or anyone elses for that matter. Every birth is beautiful and unique. I’m just saying that my experience with Leeland was special. I had never went through so much pain for another human being before. It made me think of Christ’ sacrifice for us. Unmedicated labor is the closest I’ve ever gotten to fellowshiping in Christ’ sufferings. I’m still in awe of what God did.

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Not every woman experiences so much pain in labor and some people don’t feel pain at all. I’m not sure how. But I definitely had pain. It was pain with a purpose. I didn’t have to worry about the cascade of interventions because of meds. I didn’t have to worry about pitocin leading to a c-section.

We stayed in the hospital two nights. I wanted to stay longer. The room was nice and the food was great. Carrie brought Michael to see Leeland the next day. He’s such a good big brother, and he really loves his lil bubba.

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Carrie holding Leeland.

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We are so blessed with our friends. My three closest friends (Carrie, Hannah, and Erin) all brought meals the week we went home. We had friends from church bring a meal too. God’s provision is amazing. He keeps remindng me and showing me that He came to give me life, not take it away.

My guys
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We’ve had a couple issues but not many. Leeland was jaundiced for a bit but it’s went away. He also had a tongue tie which can cause breastfeeding problems and a number of other things. Thankfully we were able to have it clipped last week.

Finally home! Leeland with Daddy.
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It was strange taking Leeland home. I was scared at first. Also the drive was anxiety producing. I was so glad when we finally made it there. We had many sleepless nights though Leeland is an easy baby. Still, I’m exhausted and I feel like I haven’t quite recovered. But I’m thankful and overcome with the blessing of Leeland. At 3 weeks we are starting to get into a routine. It’s been nice to be able to eat the things I want. I can actually drink milk! Yaaa :). I’ve been eating cereal like crazy.

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Here’s a more recent pic of Leeland. You can see he’s thinned out. His personality is really starting to shine through.
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Well, God bless & remember the High King lives! ~Amber Dover

PS: When it all began…

https://amberdover.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/a-miraculous-surprise/

 

Maternity Chalkboard Art March 14, 2015

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Hello dear ones! Last month my guys painted the bedroom door with chalkboard paint. I’ve enjoyed decorating my door with chalk art. Here are two recent drawings.

The first contains lyrics from J.J. Heller’s “When I’m With You”. It’s a beautiful song dedicated to her baby.

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The second has an anonymous quote that my friend Hannah shared with me at my baby shower. It was on my wishing tree for labor and delivery. I wanted it to inspire me at home too.
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Well, God bless & remember the High King lives! ~Amber Dover

 

2015 Bucket List & Remembering 2014 December 31, 2014

Hello dear ones! Do you have resolutions for the new year? I’d love to read them in the comments. We had quite the year in 2014. Last New Year’s I skipped the bucket list, but we still had some bucket list moments despite that. I was able to mark off a few things from my 2013 Bucket list, and there are things that I would’ve never put on my 2014 bucket list or expected. They happened anyways. God is so full of surprises. His plans are better than mine! The whole year is a testament to the goodness of God. The fact that he’d take someone like me who deals with chronic pain and was declared barren…then allow me to have this adventure…is just amazing. He took my anxious heart and gave me boldness when I needed it. I could not have done any of this without God’s hand. Nothing is impossible with God!

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https://amberdover.wordpress.com/2012/12/31/2013-bucket-list-the-best-moments-of-2012/

Remembering 2014

          • Saw the White House (took a road trip to Washington D.C., saw monuments & museums). (On 2013 bucket list)

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https://amberdover.wordpress.com/2014/06/07/colonial-road-trip-part-4b-washington-d-c-monuments/

            • Ice skated under the stars.

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            • Played in lots of snow.

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            • Learned to use the metro.
            • Started the second book in my trilogy.
            • Overcame the fear of driving/riding after my big wreck in January.

Wreck 2014 & Japan 062

https://amberdover.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/the-wreck-selah/

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        • Raised chickens & gathered our own eggs.

https://amberdover.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/best-hens-vs-the-hateful-hawk-a-valentines-story/

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          • Made new friends.
          • Had some great date nights.

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https://amberdover.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/the-hunger-games-date-night/
https://amberdover.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/valentines-2014-inspired-by-the-dating-divas/
https://amberdover.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/christmas-date-ingredients/

            • Went on a Missions trip & flew overseas to Belize. First time flying overseas.

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https://amberdover.wordpress.com/2014/07/06/mission-minded/

          • Walked the Mayan ruins.

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          • Kayaked in the ocean.
          • Shared the gospel with hundreds of kids in Belize & through VBS.

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          • Led worship on a pier early in the morning.

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          • Saw wild iguanas & parrots.

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          • Ate chicken foot.

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          • Trekked in the jungle.

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          • Saw a pineapple farm & other tropical fruit growing in it’s natural setting.

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          • Put on an Easter play & a Nativity play for our homeschool group.

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https://amberdover.wordpress.com/2014/05/11/easter-week-jesus-our-passover-lamb-easter-drama/

https://amberdover.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/jesus-our-precious-gift-an-interactive-christmas-drama-2014/
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            • Taught a huge year long history study on Creation through the 1800’s. Had fun parties, ate good food, and did several neat crafts/experiments.

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(We were actually half way through by Jan 2014. So I’ll give you the link for the middle ages & the last link of the year. You can hop to the other posts from these.)
https://amberdover.wordpress.com/2014/02/08/middle-ages-week-1-celts-anglo-saxons-king-arthur/
https://amberdover.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/the-1800s-week-6-heading-west-the-final-week/

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          • Had several fun themed parties.

https://amberdover.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/a-complete-chronicles-of-narnia-marathon-party/
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https://amberdover.wordpress.com/2014/05/17/hobbit-marathon-party/
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https://amberdover.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/once-season-finale-party/
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https://amberdover.wordpress.com/2014/02/16/hilarious-birthday-celebrations-with-mom/

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                • Threw my first baby shower, for my bff Hannah & met her new baby, Miriam.

https://amberdover.wordpress.com/2014/02/08/a-tea-party-baby-shower-for-hannah/

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              • My sister got pregnant and had her first child. Saw my nephew on Skype.
              • I became pregnant after 8 years of infertility. Felt life inside of me and saw it on ultrasounds.

https://amberdover.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/a-miraculous-surprise/

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            • Found out I’m having a boy. His name is Leeland Patrick Dover :). Due April 12th, 2015

https://amberdover.wordpress.com/2014/11/29/gender-reveal-pink-or-blue-baby-2/
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          • Shot a bow (on 2013 bucket list)

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Did you have any major unexpected events in 2014?

2015 Bucket List

(not in any order)

          • Give birth naturally & have a healthy baby.
          • Breast feed and cloth diaper.
          • Be in the moment with my family.
          • See my husband graduate from college. Support him as he starts a new job.
          • Pass Michael from 4th to 5th grade in homeschool.
          • Have more dates & couple time with my hubby.
          • Have margin (breathing room) in my finances, relationships, and time.
          • Have a deeper intimacy with God & understanding of the Bible.
          • Simplify.
          • Practice contentment with Godliness.
          • Meal plan better, save on groceries, and prepare healthy meals with more variety.
          • Commit more to my book and to bettering my blog.
          • Volunteer again and give more.
          • Be surprised by God and follow wherever he leads. Enjoy the journey.

Well, this bucket list is smaller and less detailed. Lord willing, God will fill in all the details. If we are given the future, our family has many changes coming. I have no clue what adventures are coming our way. I just know that God’s plans are far better than mine and they always blow my mind.

I pray you have a blessed new year! Please leave me some comment love if you will. God bless & remember the High King lives! ~Amber Dover

 

Advent 2014 & Christmas Decor December 26, 2014

Hello dear ones! Here’s our Advent list and Jesse tree devotions for this year. Enjoy and may you be inspired!

We kept our Advent activities in the Advent Christmas tree. I got it at Michael’s craft store and my son Michael painted it. Each day Michael opened a drawer to read the activity.

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Jesse Tree, devotions by Ann Voskamp, and Advent wreathe. We read the devotions each night and Michael would put an ornament on the Jesse tree.

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We also did this names of Jesus chain. We read a verse and one of Jesus’ names. Then Michael would write someone to pray for on the back. Each night our chain got longer. Links for printables at the end.

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First off, this year wasn’t nearly as busy as last year. Some of the activities on our Advent list we never got to but that’s okay. If peace means skipping an activity then it’s worth it. Advent should not bring stress. It is a time to remember Christ’ birth and to look forward to Jesus’ second coming.

Last year was a bit hectic but we did have fun. Here’s the link for last year:
https://amberdover.wordpress.com/2013/12/15/advent-week-1/

There are 4 posts but the rest of them are at the end of the first post. So you can hop to each one. We had some nifty parties for the Grinch and the Nutcracker. We also did some fun random acts of kindness.
This year we repeated a few activities and added some new ones. I’m just doing one post this year. Here we go!

Advent 2014

1. Leeland’s ultrasound, Christmas shopping, and watch a movie.
Our precious miracle
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2. Read “The Gift of the Christmas Cookies” & make cookies.

You can find a detailed post on the Christmas books we read this year here:
https://amberdover.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/six-inspirational-christmas-books-with-activities/
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3. Decorate Chris’ office, give out cookies, & fill a shoebox online.

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4. Nativity play at group.

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I did a whole post on this here: https://amberdover.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/jesus-our-precious-gift-an-interactive-christmas-drama-2014/

5. Broadway Holiday (take canned goods) & make cornstarch ornaments.

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Fake snow
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6. Decorate a gingerbread house & sew primitive ornaments.

We never made the primitive ornaments but Chris and Michael did put together this gingerbread house kit.

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Also, Chris and I had a date night. Details here:
https://amberdover.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/christmas-date-ingredients/

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7. Army band concert and donate to World Vision, VOM, & Valley Rescue.

We didn’t make it to the concert because Michael felt under the weather.

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8. Read “The Legend of the Christmas Tree”, make tree crafts, & watch A Charlie Brown Christmas.

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9. Read “The Message of the Birds”, take a winter walk, & do bird crafts.
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10. Watch Frosty, have a snowman ice cream sundae, & do snowman crafts.

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mason jar snowglobe~ it was hard to get a good picture.
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tea light snowman ornament
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11. Group book club, drink mistletoe cider, and watch The Christmas Box.

We didn’t make it to our group because Michael still had the sniffles.

The Christmas Box is one of my favorite stories. My Dad read it to me one Christmas. It’s about a busy father who realizes he’s missing out on his daughter’s childhood. We got the movie this year on a dvd with other Christmas movies. I’ve read the book to my family once and will hopefully do that again some day.

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12. Read “The Candy Maker’s Gift”, make candy cane crafts, & eat candy cane treats.

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13. Christmas parade & movie marathon.
We didn’t make it to the parade. We intend to each year but usually don’t. Ah, it’s too cold anyways! Chris and I did make it to our Sunday School Christmas party. We played the white elephant game and that was fun. Here’s me and my buddy Carrie.

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14. Christmas kid’s choir at church.
Well, after a busy weekend and a full morning at church we decided to stay home that night. I did go with the guys to the archery place after lunch. I had promised Chris that I’d go some day.
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I shot once and…
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found, archery is not my cup of tea. I broke the arrow. I came, I saw, and…next time I’ll stay home. At least there was a nice recliner.

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15. Read “The Lil Match Girl”, make luminaries.

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16. Fantasy in Lights.

Fantasy in Lights at Callaway Gardens is a spectacular drive thru light show with over 8 million lights! The last time I rode through was when I was pregnant with Michael and Chris was in Iraq. So it was neat this year to take the guys to this AND to be pregnant again!

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We stopped in the Christmas village for some hot chocolate and treats.

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17. Watch The Hobbit, have Christmas treats at bookstore, & visit the Pet store.

I didn’t get any pics for this. Michael got some Christmas money from grandparents and used it to buy himself a book. We took a quick trip to the pet store before going to the movies. Maybe I will write a review on the third Hobbit movie…

18. Scholars Christmas party and bookswap.

Hannah reading to the kids.

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Chris holding Miriam, Hannah’s baby.

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23 weeks

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19. Watch Seasons of the Heart, Make paper Holly garland and mini paper angels.

Mom & Michael

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20. Christmas recital & give gifts to Nana & Grandad.
Michael played “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”
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I played a few sing along tunes for fun.
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Gifts with Nana and Grandad

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21. Instrumental Christmas program.

Our church has a large orchestra.

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22. Read “The Christmas Owl” and do owl crafts.

We read the book but didn’t do any crafts. So instead here are some pictures of my lil snowman! 🙂
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23. Read “Mortimer the Christmas Mouse”.

I let Michael start nibbling on his gingerbread house since Mortimer the mouse lived in one.

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24. Christmas Eve, Read/watch The Nativity Story, living room camp out, & family games.
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We set up a big manger scene.
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Chris preparing the chicken. We also had leftovers from Thanksgiving.
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Family game time
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We each opened one gift.
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Okay this was staged lol. They were not actually asleep ;). We all ended up in bed because my lil dog has a gas problem….sigh.

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25. Christmas Day! Holiday breakfast & funny movie marathon.
It’s almost time!
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Michael has been playing his harmonica all day, that Aunt Jenn got him.
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I think he likes our present :).
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Stocking time! (Annabelle)
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Tessa

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Chester

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Annabelle…not cooperating.

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The guys putting together a transformer and then…
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the big Lego set. It took awhile.
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But it was worth it.

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Christmas decor etc…

So I was going to make this part a whole ‘nuther post but decided to keep this simple and put it all into one. It’s kind of late to show all our Christmas prep but what the heck.

Lights on the house
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Outside the door…

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Painting the Advent tree
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Stockings are hung…

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Christmas village on the piano

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Christmas tree and Nutcracker forest

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Chester modeling in his box

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New Christmas bedding. Yaaa!

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Chester…doing finances?

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Tree chain on the homeschool room door

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Michael likes to decorate his bedroom too.

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Well, God bless & remember the High King lives! Merry Christmas! ~Amber Dover

Links:

 

Six Inspirational Christmas Books with Activities December 24, 2014

Hello dear ones! I want to share with you the inspirational Christmas books we read during Advent and the activities we did with them. Also a link to the free Christmas Around the World lapbooks we’ve been doing in homeschool.  Well, all but one of these Christmas books talk about Jesus’ birth. Enjoy and I hope you’re having a merry Christmas season!

ChristmasBooks

1.The Gift of the Christmas Cookie

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This delightful story tells how the tradition of Christmas cookies came about. It is a story about sharing God’s love with others. We made Christmas cookies to go along with it.

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2. The Message of the Birds
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This cute story uses birds to share the news of Jesus’ birth. For the activity I taught Mom and Michael how to draw cardinals. Then they used waterpaint and finger paint to finish.
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3. The Candymaker’s Gift

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This is one of my favorite Christmas books. A grandfather uses the candy cane to teach children about Jesus. We made a couple candy cane ornaments. Then we made candy cane hearts to eat! Links will be at the end of this post!

Crushing the candy canes
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Before adding the vanilla almond bark
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Sprinkling the crushed candy canes into the melted candy
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Voila!

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4. The Legend of the Christmas Tree
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Why do we decorate Christmas trees? A tree salesman shares the origin of Christmas trees and how the church has used different trees to share God’s story through history. I learned something new myself when we read this. Michael made a picture ornament and a cornstarch ornament tree.

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5. The Little Matchgirl

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This is the only story that doesn’t mention Jesus. It is a bittersweet tale by Hans Christian Anderson. The poor matchgirl lights a match to warm herself as she sells matches in the freezing cold. But everytime she lights a match she sees a warm vision. This is one of my favorite classics. It’s sad but also happy…depending on your point of view. I would use this story to talk about helping others and also being thankful for what we have. We made mistletoe luminaries for this story.

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We used mason jars, red & green tissue paper, modge podge, and epsom salt. The epsom salt gives it the snowy effect.
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6. Mortimer’s Christmas Manger

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This adorable story is about a mouse who finds a home in the manger. By the end of the tale he’s given his new home back to the baby Jesus. Then God provides Mortimer with another home, a gingerbread house. So I allowed Michael to start nibbling on the gingerbread house him and his dad made earlier this month. He has until New Year’s to finish it.

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I hope you enjoyed this post. You can find these books on Amazon and Christianbooks.com (except my version of the Matchgirl. It’s from when I was a kid.) I believe these stories are worth reading every year. They’re fun and they keep the focus on Christ.

Here are the links for the craft and food ideas:

God bless & remember the High King lives! ~Amber Dover

PS: Here’s the Christmas Around the World lapbooks we used.

Free passport:
http://www.guesthollow.com/homeschool/lapbooks/lapbook_country_and_culture.html
Lapbooks:
http://www.homeschoolshare.com/christmas_around_the_world.php

I used the above link for all but Asia. I wanted to explore countries besides the Phillipines. So I used three other links for Russia, China, and India.
http://www.123homeschool4me.com/2012/10/christmas-around-world.html
http://perciousperks.blogspot.com/2011/12/christmas-in-russia-free-mini-unit.html?m=1
http://www.whychristmas.com/cultures/

We did not make any of the crafts or food this year. But the nice thing about lapbooks is that you can save them and pull them out next time. Maybe next Advent season we will have time to do more.

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Michael stamped his passport each time he learned about a country.
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I apologize for the poor quality of these photos. My camera hasn’t been the same since I dropped it.
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Also Michael learned how to play “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” on the piano. We looked over the lyrics to the song and watched several versions online. I used several Susan Paradis worksheets to go over his notes. They all had a Christmas theme. You can find them at this link:

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Jesus, Our Precious Gift: An Interactive Christmas Drama 2014 December 17, 2014

Hello dear ones! By God’s grace, I wrote a nativity play for our homeschool group. I also had an Advent craft and goodies for the kiddos. If you read my Easter play post then you know I do my plays a bit differently. No one memorizes lines and the kids/audience interact as they watch the adults perform. My son Michael performs too and again was a big help. Here’s the link for the Easter drama:

https://amberdover.wordpress.com/2014/05/11/easter-week-jesus-our-passover-lamb-easter-drama/

Alrighty, onto how this went down :). I played Mary who was the Narrator.

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Here’s the cast list:
Mary/ Narrator- Me
Joseph- Michael, my son
Gabriel- Hannah
Herod- Stacie
Elizabeth- Erin
Zachariah- Michael, my son
Simeon- Stacie
Anna- Rachel

Wise Men, Shepherds, Angels, & Animals~ played by children/audience
Jesus & John~ baby dolls

So the other homeschool moms stepped up nicely to play the main parts. Michael and Stacie played double roles.  I was very excited to include lesser known characters in the play, like Anna and Simeon.

I didn’t have the time or motivation to make all the props/costumes this year. I bought most of it from Oriental trading.
Setting:
Bethlehem backdrop (used for Nazareth & Jerusalem too)
Cave with manger- made from a cardboard box
Cross backdrop
Altar with incense- We just pretended for this.
Chair for Mary to sit on

I had my audience pretend to go back in time with me. Then the children picked their costumes and watched and waited for their part in the story. We have a small group so this worked well.

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We began our story by meeting Anna and Simeon in the temple. Simeon explains the dark times the Israelites were in but how God has made him a promise. I wanted to follow the Biblical time line. Most Nativity stories smoosh everything together and leave parts out. We of course did not see Simeon’s big moment until after Jesus was born. I wanted the kids to get an idea though of how everyone was waiting for the messiah. Simeon and Anna set that up.

Then we moved on to Zachariah’s encounter with the angel Gabriel and the prophecy of John. John would prepare the way for the Messiah. If you celebrate Advent then you know the Advent wreathe has four main candles (not including the Christ candle that lights them all). The candles represent Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace. The scenes in the drama each represented a candle. The prophetic scenes represent Hope.

Michael as Zachariah. You can read about this scene in Luke 1.
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My best buddy Hannah as the angel Gabriel and also her daughter Miriam as an angel in training ;).

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Zachariah loses his voice because he doesn’t believe the angel.
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We head to Nazareth to meet Joseph, and Mary goes from Narrator mode to being in the story. All of the next part is also found in Luke 1.

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Gabriel visits the virgin Mary and tells her that she will have the Son of God, Jesus.

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Scene 2: Love (God prepares the world for His gift of Love)
Mary and the audience travel to Zachariah and Elizabeth’s where John the baptist is born. Zachariah’s voice comes back as he announces John’s name and proclaims the prophecy.

Erin as Elizabeth with the baby John.

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Mary returns to Nazareth and Joseph finds out she’s pregnant. He doesn’t believe the miracle until he has a dream with Gabriel in it. Now he knows Jesus is the Son of God. Mary hasn’t cheated on him.

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Joseph takes Mary as his wife. King Herod (Stacie) announces Caesar Augustus’ decree that everyone should return to their hometown to be registered. Joseph and Mary embark on the journey to Bethlehem. Silent Night played while we walked around the room.

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Scene 3: Joy (Jesus is born) story found in Luke 2 and Matthew 1.

Mary tells Joseph the baby is coming. There is no room for them except with the animals. It was most likely a cave not a stable. We used a box with straw in it for the manger.

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Baby Jesus is born.

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Angels appear to shepherds in the field and announce the baby’s birth. Luke 2: 8-21

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We pause at the manger scene to sing Joy to the World.

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Scene 4: Peace
Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus go to the temple for Jesus to be dedicated. We run into Simeon and Anna again. Simeon holds the baby and makes a big speech (sorry no pics. Rachel the photographer was playing Anna). Luke 2:22-38

Meanwhile, the wise men ask King Herod where the Messiah will be born. Matthew 2:1-12

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He tells them Bethlehem and God sends a star that the wise men follow to Jesus. Mary and Joseph are in a house at this point and Jesus could be as old as 2 yrs. We don’t know. The audience/children used glow sticks to be the Christmas star.

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The wise men (maybe 3 maybe not. We don’t know) give 3 gifts. Mary holds up the gifts and explains them.

Gold, a gift for the King of kings. Frankincense, like the incense the priests burned, to represent the Priests of all priests. Lastly, myrrh, a perfume used in burial, a reminder that Jesus would die to save us from sin.

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Scene 5: Christ, Our Light

The Wise men return home and Herod realizes that they are not coming back to him. King Herod is furious and commands that all baby boys 2 and under should be killed.

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Joseph is warned in a dream. Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus flee to Egypt until King Herod dies.

Everyone exits except Mary. Mary goes to the cross backdrop and explains that Christ brings light to the darkness. Jesus grew up and died on a cross to save the world from sin. Then three days later he arose from the dead. One day Christ will return and destroy all evil. There will be no more sickness or sorrow. We ended the play by singing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”. Then we hopped in our time machine to have snacks and crafts.

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Shout out to all the awesome moms who helped make the play possible. All of the pictures were taken by my friend Rachel. She has a cool blog. Right now Rachel and her daughter Maggie are making ornaments for the Jesse tree. Check her out: http://homeschoolingmom2mags.blogspot.com/

Michael and I made Red Velvet Cake Balls for the treat. Recipe here: http://www.bakerella.com/red-velvet-cake-balls/

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I put together treat bags for the kids.
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Nativity stickers

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The craft was a simple Advent wheel that the kids colored. I found it on Oriental Trading too.
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Here’s a link with Nativity facts:
https://amberdover.wordpress.com/2012/12/24/my-family-rocks-sunday-nativity-facts-the-end-of-advent

I hope the play inspires you. God bless & remember the High King lives! ~Amber Dover

 

Mission Minded July 6, 2014

BelizeBabies

 

Hello dear ones! So…I took a trip to Belize and I learned a lot. I’d like to share something that stood out to me: what it means to be mission minded. First, I want to share some verses that most Christians know.

“37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38 This is the first and great commandment.

39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Matthew 22:37-40King James Version (KJV)

We are called to love, God and others. We are called to take the good news of Jesus Christ to the world. The good news is that God the Father, sent His son, Jesus, to save the world from it’s sins, to restore the relationship between humanity and it’s Creator.  Jesus Christ died and took our punishment upon Himself. Three day later He came back to life and conquered death itself. We no longer have to be slaves to sin and death. If we believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths that Jesus Christ is Lord, then we will be saved and we will be the children of God. It’s simple. Once we belong to God, He then fills our hearts with His love and Spirit. The Spirit empowers us to share God’s love and Truth with the world.

God has given us this great gift, but we are not to hoarde it. We are not to hide away from the lost. We are called to share this good news, to share Jesus Himself. Yet, sometimes we treat Jesus like our little secret. We have the keys to the kingdom but we’ve hidden them in our pockets. The world is starving and we have the food bank…but we’d rather keep it to ourselves, so the dirt and blood of the world won’t sully our white robes.  Yet Jesus, the one we follow, wasn’t afraid to touch the lepers, to heal the demon possessed, and set free the sexually immoral. He wasn’t afraid to embrace US in OUR filth and brokeness.

This was my first international missions trip but it wasn’t my first mission. I started my first mission the moment I became a Christian, in 1998.  I’ve been blessed, in that the Lord answered my youthful prayer: “Lord, please keep me on a tight leash. Please do whatever it takes to keep me from straying.” God has answered that prayer over and over. The times I would stray, something always happened to bring me back before I got too far. Usually it was hardship. I say that to say, my Christian walk has been a committed one. I can only give glory to God for this because HE is the one who made sure we stayed close.  This summer will make 16 years of the best friendship I’ve ever had. So I’ve known that my mission is to share Christ with everyone, in my home town, in my state, in my country, and in the world.  God made it clear to me my senior year, that my Highschool was a mission field. He took my eyes off of dating and the trivial issues of teenagedom and gave me a heart to reach my generation.

This missional mindset stayed with me for many years in my youth. But something changed when I got married and had my son. I still reached out, gave, and looked for ways to share the gospel…but I started looking inward. I started building up my lil kingdom. My focus was my family…protecting and prospering MY family. I made a little comfortable nest and I sat on it. Every now and then I would peak out at the world and throw treats: “God loves you!” “God bless!”

God had indeed called me to be missional minded with my family, to be a light at home as well as the world. But He had not called me to ONLY be a light at home…to isolate myself. Now, I understand how I slipped into it. My twenties have been filled with physical illness and several losses. I put a good bit of work into homeschooling my son and it’s a big part of the calling God has given me. Sometimes a calling can become an idol though. My love for my family has sometimes turned into idolatry, and fear has crept in. When you cling tight to your life, you will lose it. Fear is a great way to lose what you love.

“24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Matthew 16:24-26King James Version (KJV)

I issue this warning to all my fellow sisters: mother and wives: Be careful, that your family doesn’t become your god…that you don’t become so comfortable, that the cries of someone else’s child mean nothing to you. Don’t spend so much time building up your own kingdom that you forget God’s kingdom. Because if your family becomes your focus, instead of Jesus, then you will do whatever it takes to protect them…even if it hurts Jesus. Let God protect your family. Open your tight fist and give your treasures to God. They really belong to Him anyways. He can take much better care of your family than you can. 

So, back to the point of this post: Mission Minded. In Belize, I was thrown out of my comfort zone, and in my mind I acted like a brat at times. I got really upset when I found I couldn’t call my son every night. My phone card didn’t work. I got homesick often. But when you’re on a missions trip, you have to deal with yourself pretty quick. I couldn’t stay in a crummy mood. I had to get focused on God and put myself aside.

  • When you’re mission minded, you lay down yourself for the sake of others. You put aside your negative attitudes because you know you are being a witness. We were told to smile despite the heat and the bugs, because the people of Belize needed our encouragement. The people o f Belize live in harsh conditions all the time and it’s like Christmas when we come to visit. We give them a boost, to keep on ministering. But if we complained the whole time and focused on ourselves, then the people of Belize would not be encouraged. We would not be able to reach those kids for Christ, if we frowned while we were jumping and dancing to songs. Okay, I’ll admit…I got tired and many times I didn’t feel like playing. But when a sweet Belizean girl asks you to play, you just do. These kids die from fevers and infectious cuts. They have to worry about jaguars eating their livelyhood and then coming after them. Who am I to complain? It’s not about being fake, it’s about choosing to only share encouragement. It’s about truly loving others.
  • When you’re mission minded, you fellowship with others with the same mission. I couldn’t isolate myself from the group. I did everything with the group because we had to be on the same page for the mission to work.  We had to be unified. I had to communicate with the team. We encouraged each other at the end of the day. We prayed together. We worshipped together. We were able to do a mighty work because God used our unity. It was amazing to feel such closeness to people I barely knew. Most of us wept at some time or another. We remarked that this is how church should be. We were bound by our mission. The mission was the one thing we had in common.
  • When you’re mission minded, you’re open to be used however God sees fit.  The newcomers like me, didn’t know what to expect. I had no clue that I’d have to improvise and just go with the flow. We had to be flexible. When Drew, my mission leader, disappeared, I didn’t expect to be thrown into sharing the gospel on the spot in front of a bunch of kids. As scared as I was, I still did it, because the mission was more important than my fear. Many people had to throw away their inhibitions and step into roles they had never been in before. My friend who has a desk job at a hospital, had to give out medicines to people and explain how to use them. We all did whatever had to be done. No one said “Oh, I don’t do this” or “This isn’t my job!” We were willing vessels in the hands of our God.
  • When you’re mission minded, you leave your arms open.  When we got off the bus at the school, the children ran to us. “The gringos are here! The gringos are here!” That means “white people”.  It’s a bit overwhelming. But when you’re on a mission you have to be open to loving everyone. You embrace people with God’s love. You can’t hide away. Personal space, your reservations, insecurities etc…they all go out the window!  Some children were easier to love on than others. There was this crippled boy who followed me around a bit. My heart broke for him but it was difficult to be near him because he would just come up and slap me on the leg or something. It really hurt. He probably had some mental issues too. I’m not sure. Or maybe it was emotional because handicapped people aren’t treated with much kindness over there. In the U.S.A. we really look out for the handicapped. In Belize, they are sometimes treated like animals. I struggled with how to share love with someone who kept hurting me. But I couldn’t close my arms to this boy. You don’t close your arms when you’re on a mission.
  • When you’re mission minded, you abide in Christ and put aside distractions. I had some free time and I had time to goof off a bit…relax etc… But my personal devotions were most important. I didn’t have time to be distracted by social media. The schedule was pretty packed so I had to make an effort to put Christ first. Worship time and group devotions were great, but I needed to go to the life source myself. I needed to abide with Jesus  and keep my personal relationship strong, or I wouldn’t have had the strength to minister to others. Intense daily ministry can drain you quick, especially when you’re not in your comfort zone.  I could not share Christ’ love with others, if I didn’t know it myself. I had to be reminded that God loves me. I had to be comforted when I was lonely. I had to have God’s encouragement when I was insecure. My problems didn’t stay home while I flew to Belize. No, they all came with me. I just had to face them for once, because the distractions were not as available.

So what is my point? The mission didn’t end in Belize. The mission isn’t just for missionaries. It’s not for super christians. Dear ones, the mission of Christ is for all of his followers, every day of your life. We should be living mission minded always. The souls of the lost are too important, for us to be distracted, complaining, and isolated. I know it’s not easy. I have struggled trying to be mission minded at home. It’s hard to love the spoiled and the rich. It’s hard to love those who know better but still do wrong. But everyone needs grace. Everyone needs God. I’d venture to say, that those in first world countries, desperately need the mission minded. Why? Because they think they’re alive when they’re really dying. They think they are rich, when spiritually they are poor.  They’ve been given everything yet they still doubt God. It may be harder to be mission minded here, but it is just as important as it is in a developing country.

So my encouragement for you today is to remember that you ARE on a mission. Abide in Christ, so you’ll have the strength to carry it out.

God bless & remember the High King lives! ~Amber Dover

PS: More details on Belize (including pictures), to come, Lord willing.