Review: Paperless Post

Invite

Gentle Reader,

Many years ago, not quite during the age of the dinosaur, but next to it, Chris and I spent hours arguing and wrestling with our rinky-dink printer, trying to get our wedding invitations ready. We had little money. The clearance aisle at Target was our best friend; we bought a half-off package of “save the date” cards and thought we could do everything ourselves. (Note: I did not know that it was, apparently, bad etiquette to use “save the date” cards as wedding invitations. I remain puzzled by this. If a “save the date” card has all of the necessary information, why is a separate invitation necessary? Why is a “save the date” card necessary if one sends out an invitation? So many questions). And it was easy enough to type out what we wanted to say: names, date, location. Simple and clean.

But printing?

That almost ruined our marriage before it began. The card had to be lined up just right in the tray. Couldn’t put in more than one card at a time because that would cause a jam. The ink smeared at one point, evidenced by the faint fingerprints scattered across a handful of the cards. It was awful.

I wish that something like Paperless Post had existed back then.

Paperless Post combines the ease of email with the beauty of traditional stationary. Though an online format, this is neither a plain “e-vite” nor a complicated Facebook “event.” With multiple, customizeable designs available, the user is only limited by imagination when it comes to creating unique, beautiful invitations. If none of the many layouts strike the eye, then build one from scratch, using personal photos.

Once the invitation and virtual envelope are just right, simply enter the name and email address of each person you want to include in the event. Prices vary, depending on design and the number of people invited, but on average it costs five “coins” to send the lovely, special note. Each coin costs around $2.00. Up front, this may seem steep, but don’t forget that stamps are unnecessary and whatever is sent out is exactly what is wanted, not a compromise or something “settled” on.

If you absolutely must have something “concrete,” Paperless Post also has you covered, with Paper Source. Again, all of the designs are customizable, though not to the extent the strictly online versions are. Prices are competitive, coming in at roughly the same amount as what you would pay in a box store, with many options being cheaper, particularly if you browse the sale catalog.

I recommend Paperless Post, particularly for those who are engaged in community service work, which usually involves fundraisers. These invitations are a great way to get the word out without breaking the bank.

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Being for the Benefit of Madam G

Get Back

Gentle Reader,

Thank you, John Lennon. (If you don’t get the reference, please leave this site and go listen to all of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band right now).

Whenever I don’t stick to my self-imposed writing schedule, I have a sense of needing to apologize to you. As if I’ve failed. And I did fail the last two weeks, physically. An out-of-nowhere cold knocked me flat. Then the smoke of annual fires rolled in. The world is a haze of sepia and ash. My garden, vegetables and flowers alike, looks awful, as if it, too, is struggling to breathe.

As I’ve coughed and sniffed and worked to keep my lungs inside my body, I’ve thought a great deal about this blog. Something about this being its tenth year of existence is extremely bothersome to me. Instead of feeling grateful, I am discontented. I think I finally know why, or at least a bit of the why.

For so long I have kept to regular posting. I’ve worked hard to have at least two articles a week appear here, rain or shine. I like routine. I like discipline. I understand the value of both.

But I can’t do it anymore.

Authors always debate how much inspiration really matters. Many, far smarter than I, believe that it’s the grit that counts. You sit down at the same time, every day, and crack on. That has generally been my attitude. No big thing can be achieved without the small, plodding steps.

I am beginning to see, however, that there is value in looseness. Maybe it doesn’t always have to be about schedules and SEOs and striving. Maybe there is wisdom in publishing only when you truly have something to say.

I have a novel that I haven’t touched since February and an idea for another rolling around my head. It’s time to give space and energy to those pursuits.

And so Madam G, for the foreseeable future, will post only when she wants to. It is to her benefit to retreat a little. (That’s a creepy third-person thing there, but I had to reference the title somehow). Participation in Five Minute Friday will continue, because that community means a lot to me and the prompts manage to meld discipline and inspiration in a way that never seems to run to dryness. Newsletters will continue, but in a more sporadic fashion.

I continue to be thankful for and honored by your presence. The fact that more than a handful of you choose to read these words never ceases to amaze. We’ll still see each other. The journey is far from over.

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Five Minute Friday: Anniversary

Anniversary

Gentle Reader,

I spent so much time on the phone today. Good conversations, but I’m really feeling the need to crawl up in my introvert ball.

Kate says: anniversary.

Go.

Tomorrow is the thirty-fourth anniversary of my birth. At 1:16 p.m. I will officially slide into the middle part of my third decade.

I’m supposed to dislike that. I’m supposed to feel bad about aging, the gray hairs and the fine lines. Men become “distinguished” with the passage of time. Women are rarely given that moniker. Instead, we are pressured to spend thousands of dollars attempting to make ourselves look as though we are, at most, twenty-one.

Dude. I don’t want to go back to twenty-one. I don’t want to go back to any year of my life. Why should I strive to appear as I did in one of those years?

I like getting older. With each passing day I learn, bit by bit, how to stand my ground when it matters and how to let it go when it doesn’t. I no longer feel too self-conscious to go out in public without makeup. I don’t believe myself to be “ugly” because I have curly hair. I read and grow and think.

I’m glad to celebrate another year because I know that God is with me. Nothing that will come my way in the next days will be anything that I face alone. He is present. Faithful. Good. Kind.

I am happy to be His daughter.

Stop.

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Review: Mere Hope

Mere Hope

Gentle Reader,

Mixed feelings about this little book. Maybe that’s because I’m naturally cynical.

In Mere Hope, Jason Duesing instructs the reader to do four things: look down (hope’s foundation), look in (hope’s fountain), look out (hope’s flourishing) and look up (hope’s focus). Each of these steps is centered on the overarching theme of remembering Jesus, meaning that we are to live each day intentionally conscious of His presence and work in both our lives and the world at large. In this first chapter, Duesing writes:

By the Middle Ages the use of the phoenix as a Christian “resurrection bird” faded, but throughout other forms of literature, the avian myth appears to convey and remind of Christian hope. … What I love about the phoenix…is that just at the darkest moment, when you think this majestic creature has died or given its life for another, it is reborn, returning to life. … The foundation of our hope rose from the ashes of death; “something greater than the phoenix is here” (see Matthew 12:41). This mere hope is good news, for ours is a cynical age without much hope.

– p. 5

Given the chaos of our world and our growing awareness of it due to the constant connectivity of the internet, particularly via social media, this is a good reminder. All is not lost. The darkness, no matter how great, isn’t going to win. Our Savior, though He died, lives. We must continually reflect upon this truth.

I particularly appreciated the chapter on looking out, which seeks to move us from reflection to action:

…mere hope flourishes when it is employed in the service of others.

– p. 94

Just as we easily forget that God really is in charge and that evil really isn’t going to win, we also forget that our job is to go out and not only preach the Good News, but to take care of people. The two go hand-in-hand, for as James wrote, faith without works is dead (2:17). While it’s just a short jump into the terror of believing that our works keep us in right relationship with God (wrong thinking that has to be consistently battled), it’s an equally short jump into a “they need to pull themselves up/nobody ever helped me and I’m fine” mentality. This is not the example of Christ. He rolled up His sleeves. So, too, must we.

What brought me up short while reading this book was Duesing’s mediation on Evangelical Stoicism:

…Stoicism that is high on morality, asceticism and indifference plays well into our day of mutual challenges to “just grind it out.” … We are experts at “toughing it out.” … We have gotten very good at being proficient and we know how to get by. … In the face of the decline of cultural morality we hunker down and huddle up. Yet, simple joy, faith, hope and thankfulness are conspicuously absent as we “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

– p. 118-119 (emphasis mine)

Duesing is right in his claim that Evangelical Stoicism exists. I think he is wrong that it arises as a result of cultural shifts or societal pressure, however. I cannot speak to other parts of the world, but here in the United States Evangelical Stoicism exists because of the movement’s intimate connection to the very Western value of individualism, as well as the ever-present specter of the “American Dream.” As I alluded to above, it is with great difficulty that we expunge the “bootstraps” notion from our psyches. Thus, while Christianity itself has an extremely interdependent mindset, broken people living and working together in the power and for the glory of God, that way of being is largely foreign to us, here and now. We know how to be Stoic. We know how to strive. We know how to put on a brave face.

I agree with Duesing’s remedy for the problem: look up. Refocus on the Gospel. Our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world have no choice but to daily, moment-by-moment put all their trust in Christ. We get distracted by…stuff. Bank accounts, jobs, Netflix, whatever. You know what gets you, just as I know what gets me. In order to shrug off the shackles of “keeping up with the Jones’,” which is certainly a major element of our Stoicism, we have to forcefully remind ourselves that we are nothing without Him. A constant awareness of the Gospel and what it means – suffering and death for you and me – is the only thing that will break us out of our individualistic shells.

Overall, there’s nothing really wrong with this book. The author has a Calvinistic framework through which he views the world, which isn’t my jam, but no biggie. He doesn’t beat the reader over the head with it. I do find Wayne Grudem’s endorsement annoying, given his political activities in the last few years, but his standing as an author and teacher in Southern Baptist circles (this book is published by B&H Books, part of Lifeway Christian Resources, the publishing and distribution arm of the SBC) means that most first-time authors of that particular denomination would seek out his approval. Given what I know of the publishing world, I get why Duesing and his team went there.

I would have preferred some practical application tips or discussion questions at the end of each chapter. What does it look like to put mere hope into action? How do we move from the realm of the theoretical to “feet on the pavement” living? As one who really is naturally cynical, that would have been helpful. In the end, though, I do appreciate Duesing reminding us to continually look to Christ, the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

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