Busted Halo

Our writers invite you along on their journeys through Lent. Follow the play-by-play of their personal spiritual practices and share your own.

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April 19th, 2014
40 notes to 40 people in 40 days

ciao40 notes to 40 people in 40 days.

It’s not a typical Lenten practice — although I can identify pieces of the big three Lent ideas of fasting, prayer, and giving in what I’ve done. I was a little worried before I began — and along the way — that this practice would turn into a chore. There were a few moments of that “chore mentality,” but above all, this spiritual practice left me feeling refreshed and energized. I think I know why.

Writing handwritten notes every day provided for moments of reflection and meditation that made me think a little less about the things that were stressing me out or dragging me down on a particular day — and helped me to focus on others. Writing these notes actually helped me to let go of some of those worries and anxiety of life and let God handle them.

I would focus on this practice and God could have all the rest. Easier said than done some days, but it was a start to a little less “me” and a lot more God.

Most of the day is about me — my commute to work, my job, …

April 18th, 2014
Saying "No" to Snacks, Soda, and Sweets this Lent

13815786715_4fee0d38ea_oI know the title sounds ominous, but it’s true: in my opinion, I definitely didn’t live up to my own expectations and goals this Lent. As you probably remember from looking back to my first 5 Authors 40 Days post, my plan for Lent 2014 was to give up soda, snacks in between meals, and candy/sweets for the whole 40 days (well, actually 46, but that’s just because I don’t skip Sundays.) However, though not explicitly a part of my sacrifice, I also committed myself to posting here about my journey as the season progressed, as part of Busted Halo’s 5 Authors 40 Days series. To put it gently, I could have done much better on both of these fronts.

While I did fairly well at avoiding temptation in regard to my standard set of snacks, soda, and sweets, I certainly could have done better in this regard. It was particularly difficult to keep this sacrifice up during my recent trip out west, because (it being the vacation that it was) meal times were a bit irregular, and non-soda options weren’t the easiest to come by, not that that excuses me in any way. More importantly, …

April 17th, 2014
Lenten Facebook Fast

nobody-314697_1280Well, I did it. In just a few days, I’ll be breaking my Lenten Facebook fast. To be honest, I have mixed feelings about this being the end. In a way, I’m excited to get back to the things I’ve missed about Facebook. On the other hand, this time has been a really fruitful self-reflective experience for me, and I’ve learned a lot about my use of Facebook.

I thought I’d end by summarizing all of these things in the all-too-viral Internet list.

The Top Five Things I’ve Learned From My Lenten Facebook Fast

Fasting from technology creates a hunger for “real life” experiences. There were many times when I missed something that Facebook had once given me, e.g., seeing babies grow up or posting a funny status. God was with me on this journey and always sent me those things in a more real, tangible form. He pushed me to share my comedy outside of the virtual world, and He sent me cute babies to visit with in the meantime. I’ve learned not to get stuck in my same-old ways of experiencing life and to challenge myself to find new outlets for things that I love.
Any fast has …

April 17th, 2014
AP Photo/J. David Ake

AP Photo/J. David Ake

For all of Lent, I wanted to rise early and meditate before going to work. And for all of Lent, I failed.

The idea sounds wise when you are trying to squeeze in your day’s prayers at 10 p.m.

‘This will be the first thing I do tomorrow,’ I often thought to myself.

But when the rubber met the road, an extra 15 minutes of sleep always trumped waking early.

I finally managed to do a weekday morning reflection this week, which is ironically the last week of Lent. Not surprisingly, it was a most pleasant way to start the day. It certainly beat rolling out of bed and cursing fate, the universe and whatever other forces had conspired to end my time of rest. It was so nice that I was kind of annoyed with myself for not having done it sooner.

‘Too bad it’s Holy Week,” I mused sadly. “I really could have gotten into the swing of this morning prayer routine.’

The glaring answer, of course, is that I still can. Holy Week and Easter Sunday may respectively mark the end and beginning of a liturgical season, but in the day-to-day ins and …

April 17th, 2014
40 notes to 40 people in 40 days

peepsI have been dying to write this post.

Over the past month or so, you’ve probably noticed an abundance of Easter candy on store shelves — and if you’re fasting from candy and chocolate, what’s on those shelves is just sitting there taunting you! There is one candy in particular that I’d like to draw your attention to: Peeps.

Those colored marshmallow, sugar-coated chicks (or bunnies) that come in a yellow cardboard box wrapped in cellophane. The subject of one of my favorite “CBS Sunday Morning” segments, which traces the history of Peeps back to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where they were first made by Amish women working at a candy company. Fast-forward to the factory in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where they are mass produced today. And no peeking behind the curtain — the Peep-making process is a secret! (Yes, I’ve watched the segment a few times.)

Finally, the reason these candy chicks have a special place in my heart: The Washington Post’s Peeps Diorama Contest. I’m happy that the Post won a Pulitzer this week for its coverage of the Edward Snowden NSA leaks. I’m also happy that the winner of the 2014 Peeps Diorama Contest has been revealed! To …

April 16th, 2014
40 notes to 40 people in 40 days

snowThis photo represents two things — A winter that WILL NOT END. #ICantBelieveItsStillSnowing. And Lent.

Lent is long — just over six weeks. And all that time we’re in the desert or wilderness of the liturgical year. We’re fasting, praying, giving, reflecting, praying some more — all in an effort to draw closer to God. And if the Israelites in the desert are any example, feeling “close to God” was sometimes a challenge amidst their everyday (wilderness) lives. And that’s true for us today. At least for me it is. So, Lent can feel, well — really long.

This Lent was in total — with this freak white stuff on the ground today — a part of winter. I know, I know — spring started about one month ago. I even wrote about the beginning of spring in this blog! But I put on a winter coat this a.m. And I’m sitting at my desk in corduroy pants and a sweater. Give me a break.

Back to Lent — while it (like this winter) might feel at moments like it will never end, a part of me doesn’t want it (Lent!) to. I have enjoyed this practice despite and maybe …

April 16th, 2014

Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP

Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP

If I am being honest with myself — which is probably a good thing to be during Lent — there have been a good many days when I have simply cashed in on my commitment. Yes, my desire was to complete the simple task of sitting in silent meditation for 10-15 minutes each day. How could I fail unless I spoke or simply did not put in the time?

The fact of the matter, however, is that I sometimes plopped down on my bed, closed my eyes and waited for my 10 minutes to pass, making little to no effort to quiet my mind, focus on my breathing or recharge for the remainder of my day.

It is not that I feel guilty about this; that really is not the point. But the days in which I stayed engaged with my goal and actually attempted to simply be without distraction or noise for a few minutes remind me why I undertook this small challenge in the first place.

A number of benefits have shown their faces on these particular days, but I would like to focus on one: clarity.

When I have made a genuine …

April 14th, 2014
40 notes to 40 people in 40 days

dishesOne of the challenges of this Lent practice has been coming up with interesting photos and images for each blog post about writing 40 notes to 40 people in 40 days.

I’ve tried to be creative — stationery, a mailbox, the people I’m writing to, my own handwriting — but some days that’s an added challenge on top of writing a note.

This weekend, I had a plan.

My husband and I were hosting a brunch to wish some friends well as they prepare to move to Philadelphia at the beginning of May. We had a great menu planned — waffles, vegan apple pie pancakes, mini-quiches, marbled banana bread, fruit salad, mimosas. Yum! And it was yum — take my word for it.

So, I had written a note yesterday to one of the friends who is moving — and knew I would write about it for the “5 Authors 40 Days” blog. Darlene and I have known each other for about 13 years. She’s one of the reasons I was a part of a young adult volunteer program after college. Darlene was interviewing candidates for the program and she would also be …

April 14th, 2014
Lenten Facebook Fast

IMG_0452As I noted in my last post, whenever I’m missing Facebook, God finds a way to surprise me with something even better.

Lately, I’ve been really missing seeing pictures of my friends’ kids and babies on Facebook. I’m not the type of person who complains about all the pictures of babies and kids on her newsfeed. In fact, I look forward to it! Since I hardly see my college friends or friends who live in different cities, seeing pictures on Facebook helps me to feel connected to their new and growing families.

Kids grow up in the blink of an eye, so I’ve found myself wondering about people’s babies while being off Facebook for Lent. It feels like by the time I get back on Facebook, they’ll be posting about their kids moving to college!

In the midst of missing this, God sent me a lovely surprise in the form of a Baptism party for a close friend. Holding a baby definitely trumps seeing a picture of a baby, so I was delighted be present to the real deal. The party took place on a beautiful Spring day, and between the weather warming up and holding the baby, I couldn’t …

April 12th, 2014

Palm Sunday

AP/Luis Romero

When I attended my Jesuit Volunteer Corps orientation about two and a half years ago, my fellow volunteers and I were presented with all kinds of guides and articles on different forms of prayer: quiet meditation, reciting a mantra, praying with the saints…there was probably enough information to schedule a different style each day of the week and then some.

For whatever reason, Ignatian Prayer, which involves using the imagination to place oneself in Gospel scenes, was the one I struggled most to adopt. I think it felt a little too close to playing pretend. This was fine when I was 5 and donning Batman’s cape to fight my brother, but to a 22 year-old seeking communion with God through prayer, it felt a little juvenile.

Nevertheless, I find most things in life to be worth trying, so I gave imaginative prayer a shot today.

I had a number of insights as I read the Palm Sunday mass readings, but I will focus on one in particular. The Palm Sunday Gospel verses are mammoth, beginning with Jesus directing his disciples to collect a donkey and ending with his passion, death and burial.

I tried to envision …

April 12th, 2014
Lenten Facebook Fast

curtain-165488_1920One Facebook status that we can all agree is socially acceptable is the humorous status. Who could dislike a truly funny status? Since I’ve given up Facebook, I miss both posting and reading funny statuses. The number of “likes” is like a virtual applause that can be a boost to the day.

In giving up Facebook, I’ve been challenging myself to seek out alternatives to what Facebook usually gives me. If I can no longer post funny statuses, or read them, where else can I go for humor?

Last week, I challenged myself and for the first time, entered in our school’s Talent Show with a stand-up comedy routine. As I said, I had never done this before, and it was sort of a last-minute decision, in fact. In the fall, I had directed the Comedy Show and submitted a skit, but stand-up was all-new territory.

And, guess what? It was a success! In fact, I got second place in the show! I was surprised and happy. I had been saving up some pretty decent would-have-been Facebook statuses these past weeks. I was able to give them a stage.

What’s more, I got to see three other stand-ups from my …

April 11th, 2014
40 notes to 40 people in 40 days

handwritingI think my Lenten practice is from a bygone era — maybe a lot of Lenten practices feel that way in today’s contemporary society. I’ve gone back to what feels like the age of quill pens and ink. So strange and different from keyboards and screens. I’ve been affirmed in my efforts by the overwhelming positive response from people receiving my handwritten notes, the readers of this blog about my handwritten notes (thank you!), and an article in The New York Times.

Over the years, I’ve received plenty of note cards and stationery as gifts. I have many beautiful journals from friends who know I like to write and actually write on paper. I have a really nice pen from Muir Woods in California. (Thanks Chris!) And most people who know me and work with me know I write on everything. Post-its. Legal pads. Day planners and calendars. Giant white boards. Scraps of paper. The margins of magazines. The back of a receipt. Etc.

This affection for handwriting — “handwritten anything” as the title says — for being connected to pen and paper — is something I’ve really been able to enjoy and prioritize during Lent. And that feels …

April 10th, 2014

Michael Caine


“Why do we fall, sir?” “So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.” — Alfred to Bruce Wayne

I failed to pray for 10-15 minutes both yesterday and the day before.

I could say I have a good excuse. When it comes to excuses, I always do.

On Monday, I attended a funeral, so technically, I was in a prayerful atmosphere for 15+ minutes. Yesterday, I just flat-out did not make my mark.

This is something that really would have bothered me in the past. Lent can be a legalist’s paradise; 40 days of abstaining from or performing an activity is just the thing to whet a rule-lover’s appetite. And my spiritual journey has certainly included long forays into scrupulosity. The idea that I must discover some inscrutable, correct way to pray is not a new one.

For some reason, however, I am not particularly concerned this time around. While I believe in keeping my commitments and, in retrospect, would like to have meditated Monday and Tuesday so as to have successfully prayed for 40 days in a row, there is a bigger picture that is worth bearing in mind.

So what is it?

As …

April 9th, 2014

IMG_1777First of all, in the (paraphrased) words of the great Ricky Ricardo,  I’ve got some ‘splaining to do. You see, even though in my most recent post it looked like I was pretty resolute in my dedication to the Lenten sacrifice I’d chosen, such claims did not come without added challenge. This week, I’ll be in California for a quick vacation with my family, but naturally, along with that comes added allure to the possibility of skipping out on my Lenten  promise. However, there’s also the possibility to learn a lot more from the extra struggle, and in the spirit of that, I’m going to do my best to post here daily about the unique challenges of vacation in Lent.

With that having been said, today my Lenten journey introduced me to an excellent new drink I probably wouldn’t have tried otherwise. I was having lunch at a sandwich place (the particular delicious sandwich I had is pictured at right), and the restaurant featured a fill-your-own soda fountain. Typically I would have run straight to that and eagerly filled my cup, but remembering that I’m not drinking soda this Lent, I instead checked out their other options. Among these was …

April 9th, 2014
40 notes to 40 people in 40 days

Jimmy Fallon, Graydon Carter, the 2014 Queen of Carnival, and yours truly. You can imagine my surprise at being part of such an eclectic group. But after reading The New York Times over the weekend, I’m less surprised.

You know what I’ve been up to — writing 40 notes to 40 people in 40 days. Blogging about it. Trying to improve my handwriting. Etc.

You see, Jimmy, Graydon, Queen of Carnival, and I all write notes — thank you notes specifically. And as “The Found Art of Thank-You Notes” article in the Times puts it, “Few who sit down to write a bread-and-butter note are likely to be aware that by doing so they are not only on trend but also on their way to becoming happier and more sociable people.”

I like being “on trend.”

The article pointed out that scientific findings have linked “gratitude to increased optimism, stress reduction and a better night’s sleep.” It also talked about stationery preferences and the fashion industry’s tardiness in adapting to digital technology.

Now, I didn’t start this practice for a better night’s sleep. Although, I will never complain about a good night’s sleep! To …

April 9th, 2014
Lenten Facebook Fast
Spectators at the Boston Marathon in 2013, less than a mile from the finish line and within hours of the bombings.

Spectators at the Boston Marathon in 2013, less than a mile from the finish line and within hours of the bombings.

Today is just under a week away from the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings that took place on April 15, 2013.

I currently live in Boston and was at the marathon last year, just like many other Bostonians.

I know it sounds strange, but the way I found out about the bombings was through Facebook. A friend of mine posted an article, urgently, on my wall about the bombings, asking if I was okay. Luckily, I was safe and back at my dorm (thank God) and on Facebook, uploading photos of the marathon.

I couldn’t believe it. I remember my moment of disbelief.

What followed was hours of reaction to the events and trying to contact loved ones to tell them I was okay. The cell phone signals were jammed, and even my texts weren’t going out.

The best and most efficient way to tell everyone I was okay was through Facebook.

It’s moments like those when I realize the value that social media can have in our lives. I remember checking profiles of friends, as they …

April 8th, 2014

Rob Carr/AP Photo

Rob Carr/AP Photo

I have intentionally tried to plan my prayer time this Lent; each day, I sit down for a set 10-15 minutes of quiet reflection.

This has been helpful for a number of reasons, the most evident being that the discipline of actually designating a time to pray is the surest way to make sure I will actually do it. If I only meditated when I was in the mood or otherwise felt moved to do so … well, I would probably be able to count my “higher power” exchanges on one hand.

While visiting my grandparents’ house yesterday, I was browsing one of their guest bedrooms when I felt a sudden urge to pray. I only had a few moments before I would rejoin my family, but I swiftly knelt, said a few words and left the room.

The whole experience probably lasted a minute, maybe less. But those 60 seconds felt more meaningful and, frankly, holy than the 12 minutes I dedicated to quiet meditation later in the day.

I am not suggesting those pre-appointed prayer sessions are unimportant; again, they are a useful way to actually maintain a regular prayer life. But forming them is …

April 7th, 2014
40 notes to 40 people in 40 days

prayerUpon approaching my goal of sending 40 notes to 40 people in 40 days — I’ve been thinking about how I explain to other people what this practice means and how they might recreate it in their own lives next Lent, or heck, at any point during the year. (Lent might seem to have cornered the market on personal and spiritual examination, but I don’t think that practice is limited to a “season” of the year.)

There are the practical considerations of making time for the practice, the differences between sending handwritten notes and the easier, digital ways we communicate so frequently today. There are also special spiritual things to consider. One of them being prayer.

Not only have I written (almost) 40 notes in 40 days, but I consider these notes a form of prayer. They are prayers of thanksgiving for the special people in my life. They are prayers of gratitude, healing, and comfort. Prayers for encouragement, hope, or a big break in someone’s life. So in addition to being a Lenten challenge, the practice of sending handwritten notes has been a Lenten prayer practice. And one that I can truly connect with — putting …

April 7th, 2014
Lenten Facebook Fast
Spring buds in Boston

Spring buds in Boston

Being off Facebook has allowed me to have more time to do things I’ve always enjoyed. Well, who am I kidding, the weather warming up is helping, too. Since the end of the fall, I’ve been really missing walking. Now that the weather is warming up, I’m finally able to go outside on a refreshing, hour-long walk. Sure, I still have just as much schoolwork to do, but being off Facebook has given me back about one hour extra each day that I can now spend walking.

This past weekend, I took a long walk down to the Public Gardens in Boston, from where I live in Kenmore Square, near Fenway Park.

Along the way, I saw hopeful signs of spring, and I was reminded that the winter might actually finally be over. Unexpectedly, I ran into a parade, too.

This leisurely stroll was exactly what I needed to renew my spirit.

FlowersEnjoy the pictures of the coming spring.…

April 6th, 2014
Saying "No" to Snacks, Soda, and Sweets this Lent

7919078870_9728f8751f_oWe’re getting close to the end of Lent, with Easter only a couple of weeks away, and with that in mind. I took some time today to look back on my Lenten journey so far. Reflecting on the season, I realized something: this Lent has taught me to be more comfortable with being hungry (and thirsty, for that matter.) An example, if you don’t mind: yesterday, I woke up, had my breakfast (nothing major, either– just a regular old bowl of cereal), and proceeded to go about my day. I headed off to the movies for a screening, and chose without hesitation to forego my typical popcorn and soda habit, not only because of my Lenten sacrifice, but because I simply wasn’t as enticed by it as usual. Don’t get me wrong– I’m not saying that the temptation to snack (or to eat bigger meals in order to cover for the fact that I’m not snacking in between) isn’t there, just that I feel like I’ve gotten better at overcoming it.

In conjunction with this contentment with bring sort of hungry, I feel that I’ve also gained a better appreciation for the food I’m able to eat. I’ve become …

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