Day 31 With Iggy: A Feast Day and Everything In Between

Today is winding down on the West Coast. It’s the Feast Day of St. Ignatius of Loyola. If you’re new to the scene, I’ve been celebrating Ignatian Spirituality the entire month of July.

This is what happened during the last week of #31DaysWithIgnatius.

1.)  I’ve started watching Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown  a CNN series on Netflix.

2.) I created a Bay Area Bucket List of things to do, see, and eat.

3.) I downloaded the app Oyster and read the book The Rosie Project. I know have a new goal to read at least 400 pages each week.

4.) I visited the San Francisco Botantical Gardens with a friend and drank coffee while looking out at the gardens and the rolling hills before me.

5.) I had a piece published by my new friends at Loyola Press and Ignatian Spirituality through their #FindIggy Celebration entitled Surrender.

The past 9 days have been full.

What does this have to do with St. Ignatius?

A great deal, actually.

What I learned through my own Iggy Project was that encounters with God happen daily if we are open and receptive. As an ambitious writer who is hung up on rules and details, part of me feels like I failed at my own project because I didn’t write every day like I said I would. What I gained from channeling my inner Ignatius was a greater appreciation for what I have around me.

Coffee, sunsets, birds, beaches, palm trees, meals,  gardens, sunshine, friends to….

homeless people on the streets, my dingy apartment, my less than satisfactory job, fog, pain, panic attacks and

everything in between.

I have learned to embrace what is in my life from the simple pleasantries of life such as biting into an almond croissant to watching the sunset over Lone Mountain.  I have learned that God is with me during times when money is tight or when I’m experiencing a rush of anxiety. I can see God in the faces of those around me.  I can see God on the screen with one of my favorite celebrity chefs,  as he walks through war-torn places like Libya ,interviewing  people about the price of freedom whilst in local cafés.

As Ignatius has shown us, God is not limited to man kind’s simplistic notion of Him. The things around us are not God, but rather, a vehicle in which to guide us towards intimate  encounters with Him. By looking beyond ourselves, we can come into closer communication with Him. We can marvel at a sunset and think of God’s infinite plan for us. We can reach a moment of suffering and find Him suffering with us.  God is in all things.  He works through all things and through all circumstances.

Finding God in all things means finding gratitude daily. Having gratitude not only means being gracious, but it also means graciously accepting the circumstances of this life with an understanding that we don’t understand hardly anything at all.  We naturally seek to have control. Control provides us comfort. Anxiety comes when we feel like we are losing control.Surrender is the opposite of having control. When we surrender everything, we acknowledge that we do not have the capacity to know and understand everything in this life. When we surrender, we let go of everything. We acknowledge that we are merely a small part of a larger plan that we can not fully see or understand. Surrender allows us to say, “God, you made me. I trust you. Do with me as you will.” In doing this, we can accept that God works through all things. When we surrender, we can have gratitude. We can see the beauty of God’s grace and love even in the minutest of details. We can see the beauty of God’s love even in the grimmest of details. What I learned in this complex month full of emotions and observances is that God is ever-present. Life is full of daily reminders of His love for us. All we have to do is look around us.

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Day 22 and Day 23 with Iggy: Finding God in Poetry

My friend and mentor Mary gave me a book to read today called The Poems of Jesus Christ. It breaks apart the words of Jesus and places them into a creative translation while careful piecing together his elusive and prophetic words in poetic form. She said, while handing it to me, “us English majors have to stick together.” I graciously accept all books and am excited to look at the words of Christ in a new way.

As both a writer and a bibliophile, I am often inspired by words.  It is fitting Mary handed me a book of poetry today because I am often devouring poetry. Yesterday, I was re-reading the words of a great Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins and I was  thinking of how I might find God in letters  I first encountered Gerard Manley Hopkins in a creative writing class I took while I was an undergraduate student.  Hopkins writes in his poem Pied Beauty:

Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.
I don’t remember which poems of his we read in class. All I remember was loving his work and how he wrote so eloquently of nature. I am so divinely in love with nature and find being wrapped up in outdoor sanctuaries to be a most prayerful experience. What  I love about Gerard Manley Hopkin’s Pied Beauty is his very Ignatian expression of God in all things.  He notes even the dappled things- the imperfect things. He points out the brinded or spotted cow. Perhaps this is a metaphor for the muddled or dirtied things in our lives.  If we can praise God for even a spotted cow, then surely, we can praise God in everything.
I’ll  let the poem speak for itself.  Sometimes its good to let things marinate a bit.

Day 21 With Iggy: Finding God in It All 

If you have been following my blog, you know that I have been writing (almost everyday) for #31DaysofIgnatius- a celebration of Ignatian Spirituality. I was planning on writing each day, but ended up missing an entire week of writing. That is not to say that I have not been reflecting. Far from it.  This month has brought me many opportunities to see God working in my life through all things.

St. Ignatius emphasized contemplation in action. He believed that in order to live a spiritual life, it is necessary to live an active life. Our spiritual lives should  not be compartmentalized, rather, our spirituality should saturate all aspects of our lives as fully engaged beings. St. Ignatius understood everything we have and understand comes from God. Therefore, God exists in us and works in the context of our daily life. Contemplation in action means that we don’t live on autopilot. It means that whatever we do, we should do it  purposefully and with mindfulness. When we take the time to pause and reflect throughout the day, we can see God at work in all things.

So what was I doing all last week? I had taken some time off work to pause and reflect daily.

I saw God as I watched a sculpture move in the park.

  I saw God  in the San Francisco hills with a view of my church in the distance.

  I saw God in the crashing of the waves.


Through our fears, our memories, our anxiety, our happiness, our pain – His magnificence is ever present. He is as faithful as the rising of the sun and the rise of the tide.

I did not write everyday of July, but I definitely was able to reflect as I have learned to carry my faith and spiritual life with me in everything I do.

Day 13 With Iggy: Finding God on My Balcony

The more I reflect, the more I notice God in all things.

sunset 1I stepped outside onto my balcony and greeted my friend the sun. It bowed to me and I nodded giving a curtsey as it ducked into the clouds marking the end of another day.  Colors spread far and wide across the sky. I watched the cloud swirl in endless color.  Then the winds picked up. I felt invigorated by its roar for I know that means a storm is brewing. We’ve been in such dire need of rain. Any rain excites me.

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I feel very excited by the making of a summer storm. We don’t have thunder storms out here like we do back East. Each time a storm brews, though, I am reminded of summertime as a child. The lighting bugs buzzing around. The thunder that clamps. The wind that groans.  I used to lie in my bed at night during a storm and imagine some woman lost in the Moors of England searching for a child like in Irish folktales about changelings and banshees.

I am invigorated and fascinated by weather and the tales it tells. To me, being wrapped up in nature and the elements, is often more spiritual than sitting in even the most ornate of cathedrals. I have a great appreciation and love for opulent architecture, but there is something about being outside and feeling the sun on my skin, the wind wiping up my hair, and the rain spitting on my face that reminds me how tremendous it is to be alive.  The elemental, sensory, and tangibles pieces of this life place me deep in connection with God. I feel like can commune with God when I can gaze and relish in a sunset or when I gawk wide-eyed at the stars.

God is present is the smallest of life and in the widest expansion of the universe. Look around, breathe it in. He is here.

Day 12 With Iggy: Finding God in the Wait 

If there is something this week has shown me it is that life is full of waiting. With all this waiting you’d think I would be patient, but that is simply not the case. In fact, I think I become more inpatient the more I wait. 

Today was filled with waiting. I waited twelve hours for a package that never came. I was furious because it was the first perfect day we’ve had all summer and I had hopes to fill it with hikes not wasting it  on waiting. 

The only way I could see God in all of this is understand that if all I have at the moment in a package that needed to arrive that I was in good shape. Sometimes we need to “be still and know that [He is] God.”  

Rest. 

Relax. 

Be still. 

Day 11 With Iggy: Finding God in Gilbert Blythe

I recently saw a post where a Canadian wedding photographer and blogger created an Anne of Green Gables themed wedding shoot.  As soon as I saw this post, I instantly posted it to my Facebook page with a comment that noted that, “this shoot is enough to motivate me to try dating again. Now to find Gil!”  When I was a girl I was in love with Lucy Maude Montgomery’s  1908 novel about Anne Shirley from Green Gables in Prince Edwards Island. I was also in love with the three film adaptations of L.M. Montgomery’s book made for t.v. and broadcasted on PBS throughout the late 80s and early 90s.  I was also in love with the character Gilbert Blythe who Anne (eventually) falls in love with.

After seeing the wedding post, I decided to watch all three of the Anne of Green Gables movies this weekend.  I was reliving memories of reading the books on warm summer days and imagining what it would be like to live on Prince Edward Island.  I also remember watching the movies on my mom’s bed with my mom and my sister. I would watch as my sister pulled  her hair up on to her head transforming herself into a Gibson Girl while I dreamt of having dresses with leg-o-mutton sleeves.

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As I watched Gil and Anne’s love story unfold before me on the pages and on screen, I would imagine what it would feel like to find someone as special as Gil.  What makes Gilbert Blythe such a “swoon worthy” character is that he is truly a good man. His love for Anne is not measured merely in her beauty.  In fact, the characters in Avonlea all find it peculiar that this dashing young man finds a smart girl to be far more appealing than a pretty one.

What makes Gil so appealing is that he loves everything about Anne.  The aspects of Anne’s personality that others find challenging, Gil finds enchanting. Anne is hot tempered, impatient ,theatrical,  emotional, and impulsive (much like me). She is intelligent, ambitious, fiercely independent, and incredibly loyal (hey, like me, too!).  Gil never tries to change Anne, but accepts her just the way that she is. anne-and-gilbert

What makes Gil’s love for Anne so unique is that it is completely selfless and without reservation. He sacrifices his position at the school giving it to Anne, so she can take it instead and stay at Green Gables ( to care for Marilla). He cheers on Anne when she delivers her recitation of “The Highway Man” at the recital (even though she rejected his offer to be her escort). He offers her rides home several times, is always pushing her to become the best writer she can be, and even saves her from drowning (when she plays the Lady of Shalott).  Even when Anne wouldn’t speak to him, he was forgiving. He patiently and silently loved Anne even when she was unkind to him and never, ever asked for anything back in return. Gil always sees the best in Anne even when she does not see it herself.

Gil seeks to be with Anne and when he proposes and she rejects him, he feels hurt, but let’s her go. He acknowledges and respects Anne’s will and does not try to manipulate or coerce her. Eventually, she realizes she loves him too and makes a deliberate choice to be with him. Their love grows out of mutual respect and friendship. Before they married, they were friends.  Their love was not built on rainbows, but on a solid foundation. By the time they enter married life together, they had gotten to know each other by fully seeing the good and the bad in each other and loving both parts equally.

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How did I see God in Gilbert Blythe? Well, if God is in all things then he is love. God created love and God created us to love. Our love should be life giving.

To think of God in love, we must think of four types of love: eros, storge, phileo, and agape. What Gil and Anne have is close to Phileo and Agape.  Agape is this unique,  unconditional, selfless, outpouring  type of love. I don’t believe humans are fully capable of true Agape love, but I think we can come close.  God loves us with Agape and we should strive to love others with this selfless, Agape love. Most of us experience Storge. Storge is an affectionate love. This is often the love we have for friends and family. For Anne, she felt deep Storge for Marilla and Matthew. Anne experienced Phileo with Diana as they are “bosom friends” and “kindred spirits.” She and Diana have a rare and lasting relationship because they have a deep understanding of each other which then, brings them a deep love for each other. Eros, which comes from the word Erotic, is a more romantic and passionate love. Eros is often fleeting as it is primarily sensual, romantic, sexual, and affectionate. It is not bad, it is just often misunderstood.  Eros is needed in marriage, but a couple needs more than Eros to have a deep and lifelong connection.

What Gil and Anne share is strong and lasting. They have learned to love each other truly. I think what is important to note is that Gil and Anne did not start out as friends. In school, Gil and Anne were academic rivals. Gil even teased Anne a lot when they were kids. Eventually, they saw the good in each-other and developed affectionate, friendly feelings for each-other. However, they didn’t experience Eros for each other. They grew in Storge for each other as companions. When Gil nearly died of Scarlet Fever, Anne sat at his bedside confessing her love for him. Gil did the same. They had both made a deliberate decision to be with each other at this moment. When Gil got better, he proposed to Anne again, but this time reminded her that “it was not going to be marble halls,” indicating that he was going off to medical school and could not offer her the dreamy, Romantic, Tennyson love she had build in her head. She told him, “I don’t want sunbursts or marble halls, I just want you.”  These were two people standing side by side  together looking ahead to the great unknown. They have seen both each other’s weakness and strengths and  said, “yes, I will love you-all of you.”

Gil and Anne give me something to strive towards for two reason: 1.) because I seek  lasting love in the context of marriage and 2.) because their love presents me with a challenge to examine my own life and how I might be able to deepen my existing relationship and extend sacrificial love to others.  Not all of us will enter intimate partnerships that will lead to marriage.  However, each of us can love. We are called to love because we were built to love. We should strive to love others the way God loves us with unfailing Agape love.

Day 9 and 10 With Iggy: Finding God in Dark Thoughts and Dark Moments

It’s been a rough week. Thursday and Friday I wasn’t feeling well, so I nuzzled up into my fleece blanket and watched a bit of the Twilight Zone (the original series) on Netflix. I used to watch reruns of this series as a kid and I will always remember the intro. :

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears, and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call … The Twilight Zone.

What always strikes me is this phrase, “the pit of man’s fears.” What lies in our deepest and darkest thoughts?

What draws me into watching this series time after time is a combination of good (even bizarre) writing and hysteria.  The first episode I watched was from Season 2,Episode 6.  Eye of the Beholder. Now, if you are unfamiliar, it is the episode where a woman is hospitalized for a long period of time in order to treat what she believes is a physical malformation. To the outside world she is horrifyingly ugly. What we come to find by the end of the episode is that she is actually quite the opposite of deformed. VKcvFnAWe see, in this episode, the women’s self loathing, her fear of how others will perceive her, and rejection from her community. She doesn’t have the ability to see what us, the audience, sees, rather, she only sees what the outside world tells her.  Towards the end of the episode, she begs the doctor who has been treating her to let her go outside and experience the fresh air. She finds comfort in being outside and says that the fresh air will make her feel human. I couldn’t help but think of times in my life when I felt less than human.

The pit of our fears – these are our demons. They say:

You are worthless.

You are ugly.

You will never be loved.

You are a horrible person.

You are not a person of value in this society

The next episode I saw was from Season 2, Episode 7. Nick of Time.  This episode is about a couple on their honeymoon who stops in a small town to get their car fixed. While they are waiting for their car to get fixed, the couple goes into a diner for a bite to eat and come in contact with a Seer. All the Seer really is a napkin holder that spits out obscure fortunes for one penny. Noticing how the vague fortune teller seems to give the couple accurate and/or logical answers to their questions, the man becomes obsessed with knowing the future. Ultimately, the man becomes consumed with his fear of future and the unknown. His fear becomes so blown out of proportion that he can not peel himself away. Finally, his wife is able to talk some sense into him and he is able to leave the penny machine behind.

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The last episode I watched was  Season 1, Episode 16, The Hitchhiker. The Hitchhiker  tells a tale of a young twenty something woman traveling across country alone who keeps coming in contact with this hitchhiker who has been following her  for miles.  We see the woman entangled in the fear of this man who has been following her and the uncertainty of his motives.  We soon learn that she has actually died in a car accident while traveling and this Hitchhiker is the personification of Death.

twilight-zone-the-hitchhiker

While I was watching these episodes, I was thinking about our greatest fears and our most darkest moments. The Twilight Zone illustrates the depths of human fear, anxiety, and sadness.  What these three episodes show is that darkness dwells on Earth. This darkness soaks into the recess of our minds and shreds any piece of normality or peace we have. Like the woman with the bandages, we are told we are worthless. Like the man in the diner, we believe we can not be satisfied in the present without knowing the future. Like the woman in the car, we become fearful of death and overcome with sorrow.

Sometimes we might even ask, where is God in darkness?

This life is full of terrible things. I, myself, have experienced terrible things. Some of the terrible things that I have experienced I have not even shared with my own family. I, too, have asked, God where are you? How could you forsake me in this time of sorrow, stress, anxiety, mourning, etc?

God dwells among us. He sits and suffers with us.

The demons that tell us that we are worthless, that we can’t trust God, that God made us suffer because we are bad- those are lies. They are not of God. God is a God of light not darkness. The Bible doesn’t say that bad things won’t happen to us if we believe in God. No, quite the opposite. In fact, the Bible says that there will always be suffering in human life. However, that doesn’t mean that God disappears when bad things happen. Finding God in our darkest moments means having an understanding that yes, sometimes really horrific things might/will happen to us, but that doesn’t mean God will leave us.  Faith means believing in things unseen. It might seem stupid  in such a messed up world to believe in God, but this where faith comes into play. We do not have the capability to see into the future nor can we truly understand the brokenness of the world. What we can do is trust that God is with us. Through the madness, we will make it through.