Lenten Family Devotional Week One

This week, we’ll have the two days before Lent to prepare ourselves for the coming season. Technically, Lent won’t start until Day Three- Ash Wednesday. But I encourage you to go ahead and get started with the two Pre-Season devotions.

 

Needed Items for Activities—

– Day Two: party supplies (balloons, noise-makers, cake, party hats, etc.)

– Day Three: celery, peanut butter (or equivalent), raisins, honey

– Day Four: sturdy board (cardboard, poster board, etc.), blue paint, pasta, white glue (like basic school glue)

– Day Five: partially baked bakery bread OR look over the ingredients to make your own bread

Day One—Monday: Sacrifice

A common theme for Lent is sacrifice. We focus on denying ourselves, giving some comfort or happiness up for a season. After all, Christ gave himself for us; what would be too big to give in return for such sacrifice? In looking toward the “giving up” at Lent, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, when we rid ourselves of the excess in life (and we in the West have plenty of excess), we find that we have more than we need. We realize how abundantly blessed we really are, and we realize that Christ is all we really need.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall not thirst.” —John 6:35 (ESV)

The second thing to keep in mind is not to draw attention to ourselves as we fast. We tend to put everything on social media and share everything. Fasting is best not done in such a way. It is one area of your life you can not put out there.

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash you face, so that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” —Matthew 6:16-18 (ESV)

Share with those in your household. Share with your accountability partner if you have one. Those things are fine. But don’t point out to the world how miserable and deprived you are for the sake of the cross. We do keep a list on our fridge during Lent of everything each person is giving up. It helps us keep one another accountable. But that is for our family, our inner circle. That is not for the world or social media.

Last year, one of my kids gave up candy for Lent. Inevitably, the child was given candy. We instructed him to take it and say, “Thank you.” He then had the option of giving it to someone else or saving it for Sunday, the day we break fast.

During this season of self-denial, let us not forget why we deny ourselves. It isn’t to be thinner or better than anyone else.

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” —Philippians 4:11-13 (ESV)

 

Discussion—

– What will you give up for the 40 days of Lent? Will it be a sacrifice on your part to do so?

Need ideas? Here are a few ideas of fasting for Lent:

• Soda

• Candy

• Sugar

• Caffeine

• Chocolate

• Meat

• Dairy (Chocolate milk is big in our house, so this would be a big sacrifice here.)

• Video games

• Social media (This one tends to be over-used and over-talked-about, but it might be a good fit for you.)

• TV (Also, DVRing all your shows for Sunday watching might be cheating. Think about it.)

• Hot water (It is certainly a luxury you can do without.)

• Eating out

• Make-up

• Convenience, packaged foods

• All drinks but water

• Electronic devices

• Shopping for fun (No long walks around Target, no purchasing anything but necessities…)

• Your favorite toys (For kids, this might be Legos, the trampoline, Hot Wheels, etc.)

Note what isn’t on this list. Things you shouldn’t be doing aren’t here. Why? Because you shouldn’t be doing them. Giving up fighting with your brother isn’t a sacrifice, that is something you should be working on outside of the Lenten season.

Also note, I can’t give up something I don’t currently do. I can’t give up meat, because I already don’t eat meat. So, that wouldn’t really be a sacrifice for me.

– Why would Jesus say to anoint yourself with oil and wash your face while you fast? (Parents, hint: Anointing with oil was the ancient equivalent of bathing.)

– What kind of reward could there be for fasting?

– Should we fast on Sundays through Lent? (Parents, hint: It is the day of the Resurrection. Luke 5:33-35 can also help your discussion.) Some people do fast on Sundays throughout Lent. What you decide will be up to you, but your whole family should decide before together and all stick to the plan.

 

Activity—

Decide what you will deny yourself this Lent. Even young children can participate. We all have something. (Parents, be prepared to help younger children succeed in their task.)

 

Day Two— Fat Tuesday: Devotion

Lent isn’t entirely about sacrifice. It is a time of refocusing our faith— getting back to basics, refining and resetting our priorities. It is a new beginning. That isn’t all negative. It isn’t all in the giving-up. Sometimes we need to add in some good things.

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor… So, whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. —1 Corinthians 10:23-24, 31 (ESV)

One thing I am already asking you to do is commit to doing devotions as a family throughout this Lenten season. That is already adding in some good, but there is more you could do as a family and as individuals.

You can commit yourself to doing more for your spiritual life. Read your Bible daily if you don’t already. Pray in the morning when you wake if you don’t already. Listen to uplifting Christian music on your way to work through this season, or turn the radio off entirely and spend the time in prayer. Read a good Christian book. Give the money you would have spent (on shopping or eating out) to a charity or your church. Commit to praying daily for a specific purpose: your church, a ministry, a missionary, families in your church, your community, your family, etc. You can find a million ways to add in the good along with your fasting during Lent.

Lent is a good time to forgive those who have wronged you. Look into yourself for any grudges you may be holding, and let them go. If you know you have wronged someone, go to them this Lenten season and apologize.

Commit your family to being part of your church body this Lent. I’d like to think you have this commitment all the time, but I am all too aware that isn’t the reality of the lives of most people. Weekly church attendance, participation in a small group, participation in the ministries of your church— all of these help you reorganize your priorities. If the priority in your family is anything other than Jesus, you need to tear it down and start again. Anything that keeps your family from Christ needs to go. Anything. It is the simplest, most difficult thing you will ever do, and it isn’t a task that is just done. We all need to make sure that this life isn’t getting in the way of The Life.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. —2 Corinthians 4:16-18

 

Discussion—

– Will we, as a family, commit to being together and doing this daily devotion through Lent?

– Will we, as a family, commit to attending church every week this Lent?

– What will you add in that is good in addition to the thing you are giving up this Lent?

– Is our focus, as a family, on Jesus? Is anything keeping us from Him?

 

Activity—

– Have a party to start this season! Bake a cake. Get balloons. This is going to be a good season for your family! Celebrate!

 

Day Three— Ash Wednesday: Preparing the Way

Read Matthew 3:1-12

OR

“John the Baptist” on p.154-155 in Jesus Calling Storybook

OR

“Heaven Breaks Through” on p.200-203 in The Jesus Storybook Bible

 

Discussion—

– What does ‘repent’ mean?

– How can we prepare ourselves this Lent?

– What relationship was John to Jesus?

– Why do you think they called him John the Baptist?

 

Activity—

– John the Baptist snacks: We’ll not go so far as eating locusts, unless you happen to have a store near you that sells such things and you are feeling brave. Instead, we’ll be making ants on a log with honey! Cut some celery into shorter sticks. Fill them with peanut butter or sunbutter, whichever your family happens to use. Take raisins and place them along the “log” in the peanut butter. Drizzle with a little honey. Enjoy. Now, this is far different than what John the Baptist would have really eaten, but we can pretend.

 

Day Four— Thursday: The Baptism of Jesus

Read Matthew 3:13-17

OR

“John the Baptist” on p.154-155 in Jesus Calling Bible Storybook

OR

“Heaven Breaks Through” on p.204-207 in The Jesus Storybook Bible

 

Discussion—

– What do you think ‘baptism’ means? (Parents, if you’re having trouble answering this yourself, ask you pastor.)

– Why do you think John was hesitant to baptize Jesus?

– Have you been baptized? Talk about your experience. Pull out photos you might have. If your kids were baptized as babies, describe their baptisms to them, and pull out pictures or their baptism outfits to show them.

 

Activity—

– Dove Comes Down art: Today, we’re exploring the wide world of dried pasta art! Grab your white glue and pasta of choice (or multiple kinds of pasta), and let’s get started. You’ll want a base that is sturdy, like cardboard, poster board, tag board, etc. Make that blue with paint, markers, or crayons. Now, glue the pasta into the shape of a descending dove. If you need to print a template, go for it. A descending dove is the perfect shape for making pasta art because it is pretty simple. If you normally toss artwork (like I do) try to keep their Lent art for all of Lent. Find some way to display it in your home during this season to remind your family of what you’re learning.

 

Day Five— Friday: The Temptation of Jesus

Read Luke 4:1-13

OR

“Let’s Go” on p.208-209 in The Jesus Storybook Bible

 

Discussion—

– Is temptation itself sin?

– Did you notice that in Jesus’ answers, he was quoting Old Testament Scripture?

– Do you think memorizing the word of God is a good way to avoid temptation?

 

Activity—

– Sneaky Snake Bread: This sneaky snake will appear again in our story. He was there in the garden, tempting the first people created to sin. He is here in this story, tempting Jesus to sin. And he’ll be hiding in the garden, hoping to see the Son of God reject the cross. The first temptation of Jesus, because he was hungry, was to turn a stone into bread. We’re making bread! If you find yourself short on time, get a partially baked baguette from the bakery. Cut slits in the bread on opposite sides and stuff the bread with whatever you want. (If you want a dessert style bread, stuff with cream cheese or mascarpone and berries. If you’d rather go for a savory loaf, try Mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes. If you want to make it for lunch, stuff it with deli meat and cheese.) Then bake it until it is brown. The alternating cuts can serve to “bend” the bread a little. You can also use olives and peppers to make eyes and a snaky tongue if you’re feeling up to it.

If you’re feeling more adventurous and want to bake your own bread from scratch, follow these directions:

8 cups white flour

1 T salt

½ oz. fresh yeast

5 T room-temp milk

1 and 2/3 cups cold water

Mix the yeast and warmish milk to activate the yeast. Wait a few minutes to give the yeast some time to adjust. Add the rest of the ingredients into the warm milk and yeast mixture. Once it is combined, turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10-15 minutes. (This is enough time to give all your kids a chance to knead the dough.) Knead until it is smooth and elastic. Place in an oiled bowl and cover with oiled plastic wrap for about 2 hours to let it rise. It should double. Keeping it somewhere warm will help it rise well.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, punch it down, and knead it for a minute. Cover it with a kitchen towel and let it rest for about 10 minutes. (These rest times are the magic moments for bread. Skip them, and your bread will be sad.)

Now, you’re going to use your dough to make a snake. Take some and make small stripes. Get as creative as you’re willing to get. Basically, use the dough like Play-Doh. If you’d rather let each kid make their own smaller snake, go with that. While the snake making is going down, preheat your over to 425*. Place the snake(s) on a large baking sheet.

If you want your snakes to be lovely, I would suggest an egg and milk wash. (Whisk one egg and 1 T of milk. Brush that onto the top of the bread before baking.) It’ll make it shiny and beautiful and super-impressive-looking.

Bake your snakes until they are golden brown. Serve them as a snack or with dinner. It is up to you how you consume your snakes.

– Listen to the song A Stick, A Carrot, and A String by mewithoutYou.

 

Day Six— Saturday: Jesus Calls His Disciples

Read John 1:35-51 and Mark 2:13-17

OR

“Twelve Helpers” on p.156-159 in Jesus Calling Bible Storybook

OR

“Let’s Go” on p. 210-213 in The Jesus Storybook Bible

 

Discussion—

– Have you ever thought about just how crazy this all was? A stranger is coming and asking a bunch of guys to follow Him around.

– Why do you think these twelve were the chosen ones?

– Why do you think the religious officials were surprised that Jesus was spending time with tax collectors and sinners?

– What does Jesus’ response tell us about who He is?

 

Activity—

– Follow the Leader: Take turns being Jesus. Jesus says, “Follow me!” Then we follow along the way He is going. If He jumps, we jump. If He crawls, we crawl.

Lenten Family Devotional 2017 


Lent is coming! It sneaks up on me every year. This year, the focus of our study will be the ministry of Christ. If you’d rather, skip back to 40 Holy People and study that one if it fits your crew better. Or head on back to the Lenten Reading for Kids schedule if you’d prefer that one. If you’re new to my family devotionals, let me tell you how they work and give you some tips.

Lent is a 40-day season, not including Sundays. It is the season that stretches from Ash Wednesday (which is March 1st this year) to Easter Sunday. This year, I have two pre-Lent devotions and then 40 days of devotions for the Lenten season. These are intended to be done as a family. Everyone. All together. Now, I add some optional activities into my devotions. Use them. Don’t use them. You make this work for you and your family.

For Lent, you’ll have one reading each day except for Sunday. Use them as a springboard to talk to your kids about the life of Christ. I’ve also included some questions to get discussion going. Expect to get as much out of this as your kids get. This isn’t just for them; this is for your entire family. You may want to look ahead each week and see if there are any items you’ll need for activities that week. I will add a quick “need” list at the beginning of each week, but if you’re picking and choosing activities, you’ll need to adjust that to fit you.

Who reads? That is up to you. In our house, I am usually the devotional reader, and the Pastor usually handles a lot of the questions. Although, we do sometimes alternate kids reading. It really just depends on our particular time constraints and if the kids are acting particularly cooperative that season. It varies.

If you miss a day, skip it. Don’t try to pile a bunch into one day. Just skip it and move to the next. It’ll be okay. Really.

I write these for my family and then make them available to you. Adjust them as you need, and make them fit you. If you need something short and sweet, just do the readings. If you’ve got littles, use a storybook Bible to read the stories. Do the devotions in the evening, and then let them do the activities the following day. Whatever works for you is what will be best.

I’ve included the Scripture passages, but also added the applicable pages from The Jesus Storybook Bible and Jesus Calling Bible Storybook. If you have younger kids, you may choose to read from a Bible storybook instead of the Bible text when you can (All the readings aren’t found in both Storybooks.), or you may just want to look them up so that the kids can have illustrations to go with the story. If you have another Storybook you love, use it. I simply chose the two that are the most used in our house.

My prayer is that this Lenten devotion brings your family closer to one another and closer to God during this season. I hope you grow as a family in your walk with Jesus, and I sincerely hope this Lenten season is meaningful for you and your children.

The following links will become clickable as they are posted:

Week One

Week Two

Week Three

Week Four

Week Five

Week Six

Week Seven

** This post contains affiliate links. **

What the Pastor Wants to Say, but Doesn’t

This list is really meant to give some insight and be lighthearted. The Pastor helped me out with this list. And yes, they are all true to life, but specific to our life. (And trying to take a picture with The Pastor was beyond ridiculous!)


(1) I really just need you there.

We honestly get that things come up, stuff happens, but we really do need people we can rely on.

(2) We had a late night, too. Or a baby who wouldn’t sleep. Or a kid who woke us up 27 times. And I also currently have a headache. And we still made it here, early.

(3) Yes, this is personal.

When you reject the church that we pour ourselves into, we do take that personally.

(4) This is what I do. Ministry is completely different than running a business. While I appreciate your input and ideas, you have to know that this is what I do.

(5) Yes, in fact, it must be the very best; it is, after all, for Jesus.

In times where people want to cut costs by cutting the quality of things like tea, coffee, paper, sound equipment, etc.

(6) We realize we live in a glass house and we are okay with that. There is no need to snoop, just ask us outright, we’ll answer.

(7) No, I can’t tell you about so-and-so. We may not have secrets of our own, but we do keep other people’s business in confidence. If you want to know the “deal with them” you’ll have to ask them.

(8) It isn’t always about you.

Sometimes, we do things you don’t like. And you have to realize that it isn’t always about you or your needs or your taste.

(9) You’re curious about where they’ve been? Have you called them?

(10) We sacrifice a lot for this. This isn’t just a job or hobby. This is a calling we see as vitally important.

(11) I’m absolutely available to answer your questions, provided you are actually looking for answers.

(12) No, I won’t call your friend at work and tell them why their pastor is wrong. If you would like to defend your faith, I can give you the resources to do so.

(13) Actually, we do practice what we preach.

(14) Pastoring is more than just preaching. What you see on Sunday morning is only a small part of what we do.

(15) We always expect that we’ll have to do it ourselves. It isn’t that we don’t trust you, but we’ve been let down so many times, we’re always prepared to do it all.

(16) We really do want the very best for you and your family.

(17) I really need people to do the work of the ministry, not just come up with ideas. Ideas are great, but we need people to follow through on them.

(18) I have my own vision and my own calling. Don’t expect me to drop everything I am doing for your great idea of a ministry I could do.

(19) No, I cannot do counseling with your [spouse/child/parent/friend/cousin] to tell them you are right and they are wrong.

(20) 3 am is not the time to discuss Ezekiel. Call me at 3 am if it is an emergency. But calling me at 3 am to discuss Old Testament prophets is never a good idea.

(21) We are not all millionaires like televangelists. Most pastors work for far less than their equivalent degrees would earn them elsewhere. We aren’t in this for the money, but for the ministry.

(22) No, my kid can’t do the activity that has Sunday responsibilities.

(23) No, we can’t come to the family reunion on Sunday or a big church holiday like Christmas Eve or Easter.

(24) I really wish you’d stop reading books written by heretics. Need a good book recommendation? Ask me, I have more than a few to recommend.

(25) Ministry requires volunteers. We know you want a children’s program, but you have to have people to run that. We can only do so much with limited volunteers.

(26) I know this isn’t how it was done at your church growing up, or your sister’s church, or by the pastor who was here before us. Do you like being compared to your mother-in-law?

(27) We go through hard times too. We often forget to mention our own troubles or prayer requests, but we have tough times, as well.

(28) It hurts when we invest our lives in people and they turn away from us. We understand that, but we keep investing and giving anyway.

(29) We wish you would see our success as more than just numbers. Personal growth of disciples isn’t always quantifiable but is success nonetheless.

(30) I wish you wouldn’t apologize every time you cuss around me. Jesus takes us where we are. I’m really not judging you. I’m just happy you’re comfortable being yourself around me. Don’t ruin that feeling by making it awkward and apologizing. If you’re working on changing your vocabulary, let me know so I can encourage you as you make steps of improvement.

(31) We have many of the same struggles you have. We have limited finances, student loan payments, bills to pay, work and family to balance. We really do understand.

(32) We are in this as a family. I know you only see one name on the sign or with a title, but this is an entire family ministry.

(33) We make a lot of sacrifices to do this, so it is very upsetting when people put us down for not working normal hours. Often this means taking a second job, only having one car, not being able to buy a home, having no health insurance, giving up saving for retirement. We sacrifice. We don’t want to tell you about this, because we don’t want to complain about what the Lord is providing through His people. But this is more than a 40-hour/week job. This is an all-the-time, always-on, immersed-in-your-work way to live. It is far from cushy.

(34) Sunday mornings are not a good time to complain. If you need to complain about something, I understand. Sunday morning or Saturday night are the worst times to do so. Shoot me an email or text Sunday afternoon or Monday morning. Let me focus on what God is speaking through me on Sunday morning.

(35) I am not looking for a “better” opportunity. We are serving where we are called to be. I don’t need you to send me information on churches looking for a pastor. This isn’t a typical job where you look to climb some sort of ladder. I’m where I need to be for now.

(36) We will drop everything for you, even when we know you are using us. It isn’t that we don’t know, we know. We just love you enough to do it anyway.

(37) It is hard for us to balance the work we do for the church with the work of the church. We honestly cannot do it all. We are always aware that without volunteers, the church will be lacking in one area or another. We just can’t be the whole body.

(38) We know we’re always pushing for more. It isn’t that we aren’t satisfied. We just know there is always further up and further in. And the work is just never done.

(39) Seriously, I don’t just want your money. Yes, ministry takes money. But we are really in this FOR you. (In fact, I pray God will give YOU more money than you know what to do with.)

(40) I know you did a quick Google search, but I do have a Masters of Divinity degree. You aren’t an expert on anything in 20 minutes compared with my 90 hour graduate program that was after my bachelor’s degree.

Homeschool Student Planners

One thing I implemented this year in our homeschool that has helped tremendously is the use of personal planners for each child. Originally, I had planned for only the older three to use the planners, but my Kindergartener has begged to get in on the system, as well. So he has a modified version, as well. I will absolutely continue this because it has worked so beautifully in helping my kids be more independent and responsible for their own schooling.  


I fill them out on a week by week basis. I look at my calendar and decide how heavy of a work week they are going to have. For example, my daughter does Meals on Wheels with The Pastor every other Monday. She has light work loads those days to accommodate her volunteer activities. They also volunteer once a month at a local Children’s Home, so those that are helping with that will be given a slightly lighter work load that day, as well. I find that looking at only a week at a time lets me set very reasonable expectations and they are able to achieve what is planned out for them. Planning further in advance always leads to me over planning and then they feel like they failed when they just can’t get it all done. I want them to succeed, so I make every opportunity for them to do so.


For each day of the week, I write a checklist in their planner. Several of the items are group activities, several are independent activities. I have to guide them a little more when introducing a new curriculum, but once they get the hang of something, they can really take over themselves. We do Bible, history, Science, and geography as a group. I actually have two groups running in my house right now. I have the older grammar school kids and the Kindergarteners. My Kindergarteners do Bible, Reading, and Phonics together. They have very little independent work, so I plan for that. 

I use the weekend spots to write in a weekly checklist. Now, I have been doing chores here, but if we had more computers and I didn’t have to schedule out their computer time so much, I would add much of their daily work into a weekly list. I don’t necessarily care when it is done, as long as they are doing the work. A weekly list would allow for more flexibility for them, but is really impossible with our current computer situation. (I have 4 kids sharing 1 computer.) Right now, I add their chores onto that list with the boxes for the number of times I expect them to do that chore. The chores rotate based on the week’s schedule and the season. They also rotate depending on the attitude of the kid or what they have been doing lately. (Boys that keep having “accidents” on the floor around the toilet get the chore of cleaning the bathroom floors and toilets.)


I have also been keeping their attendance in their own planners. I simply highlight the days on the monthly view that they had school. Yes, this means that I am keeping up with it in multiple places, but it has given them a sense of accomplishment and they can look and see when they had a heavy month and when they had a light month. Next year, I plan to get better planners to be able to expand this system. Right now, I just have the small, cheap, student planners from WalMart, and while they serve our purposes, they are small and there is more I think I could do with this system. (Keeping a log of books to read or books read, keeping a log of people they write letters to with addresses, habit tracking for them, etc.) A bullet journal might work well, but I think the planner format is easier for them to understand. I’m using a bullet journal style for my oldest Kindergartener right now. The simplicity is working for him, but I don’t have much to put in for him.

I’m really glad I decided to give this a try. I wasn’t too sure at first it would be something worth sticking to. Filling out 4 planners at the beginning of each week doesn’t sound like an easy task. But it really doesn’t take too much time. Just half an hour or so each Sunday looking at the week and plugging in their lists. And the time I save in their being independent is so much more. Emery (7) quickly saw how he could check off all his independent work before we even started school in the morning. He is routinely done with school before noon. Imogene (10) dawdles more and as a result, she is usually “doing school” until 4 or 5. She doesn’t complain about it, she can see what she needs to do. She just prefers a relaxed paced and is okay with it taking longer. And in the end, both of those approaches are fine. They are both learning and progressing and getting their work done. And they are happier having the freedom to do things their way in their time.

Epiphany Family Devotion

We celebrate Christmas for 12 days and then comes this day we call Ephipany. Some people call it Three Kings Day. We tend to think of the kings, be they three or not, and think about the gifts they brought Jesus. They brought significant gifts, as we will read. But the gifts aren’t exactly what we are celebrating on this day.  

Read Matthew 2:1-12

We aren’t sure where the kings were from, simply that they were from the east. These were not Jewish men. They were Gentiles, simply meaning, they were from outside Israel. These wise men followed a star to Jesus. We don’t know exactly when they came. We don’t know their names. We just know they heard a prophesy, saw a star, and came to Jesus with gifts.

Now, the gifts themselves were significant. Not traditional baby gifts, by any means. What kind of gifts would you give a baby? (Pause for discussion.) The wise men brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh. What strange gifts. Gold for a king. Frankincense for a priest. Myrrh for a dead man. But the gifts aren’t what is important here. What they reveal about the giver is what we celebrate on Epiphany.

Epiphany is defined as being a moment of sudden revelation or insight. It is from a Greek word that means Reveal. At Epiphany, we see Jesus being revealed to people outside of Israel. Epiphany is about Jesus being revealed to the Gentiles, the world. He isn’t just going to be the king, priest, and savior of Israel. He is going to be king, priest,, and savior of all men. The gifts given reveal to us that the Kings, the Wise Men, knew who Jesus was and that He had come to save mankind, not just the nation of Israel.

So, today, we celebrate! Not only has Jesus been born, He has been revealed to the whole world. Not only did Jesus come to save His own people, the people of Israel, He came to save all mankind. He came as a King, Priest, and Savior for the whole world! Rejoice!

Ask LJ- Reviewer Questions

lj-with-glasses-big

I get asked a lot of questions about reviewing. I figured I would answer them all in Ask LJ style for you.

LJ,

How did you get started as a reviewer?

Wanting To Begin

Wanting To Begin,

This is an easy one! I rely really heavily on reviews when I shop. I don’t want the advertisement junk or sales people pitches. I don’t care about all that. I want reviews. What did real people think about the product? That is where the good info is. Since I rely so heavily on reviews, I started feeling like it was my duty to review the things I tried, good or bad, to help others when they were looking to make a purchase. So, I started reviewing everything I bought. I started reviewing mostly on Amazon, because that is where I made the majority of my online purchases. I then started reviewing books on Goodreads. Basically, anywhere I could. I do post some reviews here on my blog. Some get pic reviews on Instagram. But really, I just started reviewing the things I was buying anyway. I didn’t buy things just to review them. I didn’t overspend trying to get enough “good stuff” to review. Just reviewed the things I bought and used.

LJ

Dearest LJ,

I want free stuff. How do I get free stuff to “review”?

Make It Worth It

Make It Worth It,

This is the most often asked question. Honestly, the answer is that I don’t know. This reviewing thing just kind of landed in my lap. I didn’t really seek it out, so I don’t know how someone seeking it out would go about it. For me, I wrote reviews because I like reviews. I did that for years before I was sent my first item free for review. It started with books. Advanced Reading Copies that I read quickly and reviewed promptly. Then it branched out into other stuff. I also have quite a span of kids here, so reviewing some things is easier here because many ages can try the same thing in the same environment. If you dislike writing and don’t personally see value in reviews, this probably isn’t for you and that is okay.

LJ

LJ,

What is the craziest thing you have ever reviewed?

Curiosity Killed The Cat

Curious Kitty,

I think reviewing vitamins felt the weirdest. I know that seems strange, but it feels a little like being a human guinea pig. I also reviewed a slew of ovulation tests and pregnancy tests. Reviewing things you pee on is a little strange. Underwear. But honestly, those are the things you WANT reviews on! As far as just, weirdest, I guess that would be… I don’t know. There are literally years worth of options. Weird rug that felt like a wet cat, home microderm abrasion machine that felt like I was sanding and vacuuming my skin at the same time, knives that The Pastor then cut the tip of his finger off with, a clarinet, a faucet, a loveseat- maybe I should just say they were unusual.

LJ

Dear LJ,

Reviewing seems like it’d be the best! Are there any bad parts?

Certainly Only Good

Dear Certainly,

It isn’t only good. It takes a lot of time. There are times I have to extremely limit what I will review because I know I am just too busy. I can only review so many books at a time. I have read so many bad books. Books that make me think, do they really just publish any old thing these days? So much time spent on bad books. And mediocre books. I mean, with so much wonderful literature in the world, and only so many pages that can be read in a lifetime, and I have voluntarily spent many of those on horrible or “eh” books. Really, it is sad.

And then there is having to write negative reviews. I don’t like that. But I feel obligated to honest reviews, so negative reviews are inevitable.

Time lines. When you are reviewing for fun, because you love reviews, and you are reviewing what you want, you can have whatever timeline you want. You can use it for 3 months, then review it once you really see what you think. But with most reviews that are given to you, they have a tighter timeline. And that isn’t always long enough to maybe test the product as much as you’d like. The ability to edit reviews does help this a bit, since I can go back after 3, 6, or 12 months or whatever and add to or change my initial review. Some timelines are even tighter. I, no joke, had a supplement company request a review in 3 days. 3 days for a supplement that literally would take 3-6 months to really give any information beyond what the bottle looked like.

And then you have the issue of stuff. Stuff accumulates. A person can only own so many vacuums. Some of my agreements state that I have to keep it or destroy it. Some say I have to keep it for a certain amount of time. Some don’t care who I pass it off to when I am done, I guess thinking maybe they’ll get a second bonus review from the product. But you accumulate stuff. And that stuff has to be dealt with in some way or another. And I have to remember which things have to be dealt with in which ways. Then you have the times when you try the thing, abuse the thing a little, and then the company wants the thing back because it broke or in some way performed in a way they didn’t expect. Then you have to get the thing out of your stuff storage system and send it back. It just all takes time and organization.

LJ

Hey LJ,

Do you make money on reviewing?

The Question Everyone Wants To Know

Everyone,

As much as The Pastor wishes that reviews generated income, they do not. My reviews do not pay a dime. In fact, the reviewed items themselves are now considered income by the IRS. So, really this could only cost me money at this point. I also never generate an affiliate link for items I received for review. (I do provide affiliate links for items I paid my money for. Affiliate links give me a few cents or whatever if a reader uses them to purchase something. So, if you want to support your favorite blogger, use their affiliate links!) So, no, this is not a lucrative hobby. More of a barter system type transaction. Again, I do this because I love reviews. I am a big fan of giving my opinion.

LJ

Dear LJ,

What is the best part of reviewing? Why do you like it so much? It seems like a lot of trouble.

Tell Me Why

Tell Me Why,

First, I value reviews when I buy something, so I like to think that I am helping build that type of consumer community where we all share our honest experiences in order to make things easier and better.

Second, I like to write and it gives me an outlet. Clearly, I do so in other ways, but in my early reviewing days, this and mom forums were where I did the majority of my writing. And mom forums are awful. So, reviewing it is.

Third, it really pushes me out of my comfort zone. I never would have tried paddle boarding if I hadn’t been sent a paddle board for review. I never would have cooked soup for weeks straight and found some amazing recipes had I not been sent a soup cookbook to review. Every review gives me the opportunity to experience and try something new. In the world of reviewing for free items, that often means trying things I might not have otherwise tried.

Fourth, I like giving my opinion. I like the satisfaction of being heard. I mean, I don’t necessarily think companies use my reviews to make their products better. But they could. And that is enough for me.

LJ

LJ,

What kind of products do you review?

What, What, What, What

What,

I really review anything I use. I started with books and baby items, since that is what I used most. It extended to toys, since I have kids from 19 months -10 years old. Household items were added to the mix. Clothes. Shoes. Soap. Vitamins. Electronics. Makeup. Beauty Products. Really, there isn’t much I won’t review. I’m more selective these days about what I will review, since there is only so much time to review things. But really, I review it all.

LJ

Dear LJ,

How do you write a good review?

Assist

Assist,

You write your experience. Really, that is about it. Do you like it? Do you hate it? What bothered you? How could it be better? What was particularly enjoyable about it? You’re just giving your opinion on the item in your hand.

I do take price point into consideration. I do take my expectations into consideration. I do take the opinions of my family into consideration. (An example of that would be a Korean lip peel that I hated but my 10 year old daughter loved. I would have rated it terribly, but she liked it, so I saw it did have some appeal and use to her age group.)

I find long reviews too cumbersome to get through. For book reviews, I don’t want the back of the book jacket when I am reading the reviews. I don’t need the entire plot.

My new favorite feature is pictures. I want pictures of the item from real people, not the professionally taken and photo shopped pictures. Real pictures. Even phone pictures. In fact, using your phone for reviews with pictures is the easiest in the world to do.

LJ