Sunday, April 29, 2012

And Moving On.

Sigh.  Thus ends an era.

I've officially started a new blog.  And am finally owning up to the fact that I can no longer claim the nickname "Kernal."  It's time to embrace the new, married name, so find me here with my new, married self. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April Showers Bring.

Navy life can throw you for a loop.  Nothing is certain, and things can always change.  In fact, most times, they do.  We're not staying here in Japan as long as we anticipated, but I'm thankful for being able to see Japan in a full year.  For now, that means sakura.  Cherry blossoms.  These are what drive everyone's plans.  Even the Japanese.  They plan picnics and festivals and base any theme upon this ... phenomenon, I'll call it.  Because it's stunning.  Here's my take.

Fantastic, no?  Sakura are in perfect bloom for only about a week, so you have to catch it when you can.  The petals are already falling.  But we get them for a blink.  The perfect introduction to spring.  

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Exploring Our Home

For living in Japan, my husband and I don't get out much.   I do my exploring with American and Japanese friends, and he uses the weekends to rejuvenate.  Or has to work anyway ;)  But this past weekend, we packed up, stayed in Yokohama, and scurried around Tokyo.  We've been around the Tokyo metro quite a bit, but we were more ambitious this time around.  Here are some of the things we saw.  

This is Yokohama’s beautiful skyline.  Gosh, I love this city.   On the left is Landmark Tower.  The group of three descending towers next to it is Queen’s Tower, and the fin-looking tower is Queen’s Square.  The ferris wheel in the background is Cosmo Clock 21, at once the biggest ferris wheel in the world.  The red building on the right side is the Red Brick Warehouse.

Yokohama’s Chinatown is the largest in all of Asia.  It’s full of red craziness. 

My favorite part of Chinatown is Doctor Kiss Fish!  You put your feet in a tub full of baby carp and they pull off your dead skin in search of food.  Best pedicure I’ve ever had. 

This is the best depiction of Yokohama Station I’ve ever been able to capture.  What you see here is what it feels like ;)  I love it!

Haha, my rat of a husband.  Too much train time, I guess.

We went up to Shimokitazawa for Bear Pond Espresso.  They serve only 20 shots of their specialty espresso per day.  We got there 45 minutes after they opened, and were too late!  It was perfect, because the shop was tiny and full of fisherman-looking raggedy Japanese, and rugged outdoorsy tourists. We came back earlier the next day and got ourselves some of said espresso.  It was so ristretto.  Bold, thick, and packed with a kick.

We also hit up my favorite kaitenzushi (sushi-go-round) in Meguro.  Simply delicious!  Someone needs to introduce the States to sushi-go-rounds.  Let’s start a petition. 

I was floored by Tokyo Tower.  It is big and bright and beautiful.  When on the observation deck, you can see Tokyo in all directions as far as the eye can see.  Makes you realize how enormous Tokyo actually is.  Unfortunately, my camera died before I had the chance to capture it.  Wah wah.  

This is the Nikolai-do, the Orthodox Cathedral of Tokyo.  We worship here when in the area.  Otherwise, we have a (much) smaller parish in Yokohama.  Beautiful, hey?

No Spring Sunday would be complete without a walk in the park.  We chose Yoyogi Park in Harajuku.  Inhale, exhale. 

It just so happened that the Fertility Festival (Kanamara Matsuri) was going on in Kawasaki.  Good for a laugh, and definitely nothing I’ve ever seen before.  Yes, this actually exists.  Avert the kids’ eyes for this one!


Japan is simply great.  Full of history, rich culture, and reasons to celebrate.  There are times you want to run away, times you can’t believe your eyes, and times you wish to never leave.  

Friday, February 24, 2012

Those Wonderful Wives

I'd like to give you something new to pray for. And I hope to avoid my own pity - I do fit into this category, but my own situation is really not that bad. So don't pray for me. Pray for wives X, Y, and Z. Well I guess you can pray for me if you want to, heh, but just realize that I'm fine. Pray for my growth midst struggle.

Many wives of sailors start their orders in Japan thinking that separation will be more simple. Easier. Because we're already overseas. It becomes disappointing when husbands are gone more sporadically and often than Stateside duty stations. Gone, here, busy, not. Overseas stations require constant adjustment. To an empty house, to single parenthood, and then to undoing it, allowing your husband back in where you had filled the holes yourself. To inspections that require 14 or 15 hour days. And then on to the next deployment. The goal becomes about distractions and filling time.

I'm experiencing my first deployment. It's not long, and I feel good about the "training" for the future. I'll be more prepared for the longer ones. I live off-base but close. In an area with coffee shops, malls, busy-ness, and lots of lights. There's presence here. So I'm blessed. I can escape my empty house. Often the case for off-base living is endless Japanese residential area. Isolation. Quiet. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to endure deployments this way. Especially if you don't work.

So pray for your military wives today. The military cares for us as much as it can. Still, we sacrifice a great deal. Most days it's worth it; we have the strength of body builders. But we can always use more support.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Essence and Energies

Orthodoxy astounds me. I love the Lutheran Church - I grew up in it - but I never really knew much about what it meant to be Lutheran. To this day, I don't know the difference between the Protestant churches. Of no fault but my own, of course.

But I know what it means to be Orthdox. I love this Church which has existed since the Apostles founded it. In a world that seeks to make church more trendy and appealing, which isn't the point, it's refreshing to find a church that is what it is. And is what it's been for 2000 years. And has struggled for the sake of maintaining the integrity of the Church, protecting against heretical thought and the false prophets throughout history. That's biblical, no?

Anyway, the Orthodox Church seeks to know God while respecting His mysteries. Some of us try to explain everything, while others have given up any speculation. Neither of these things is wrong, but there's a balance. The Orthodox Church, though it has records of ecumenical councils and Tradition, isn't afraid to say, "We don't know; it's a mystery."


My husband and I are reading The Orthodox Way by Bishop Kallistos Ware. Most recently, we've read about how knowing God is explained. That sounds strange, yes, but there have always been conflicting ideas. God is huge. Ridiculously huge. How could human minds understand Him? Yet, we are meant to know Him, because what He wants is relationship with us. So how does it work if He's so seemingly and actually incomprehensible?

I'd like to share part of this section with you. Forgive the length. This is what happens when my mind is blown.

To indicate the two "poles" of God's relationship to us - unknown yet well known, hidden yet revealed - the Orthodox tradition draws a distinction between the essence, nature or inner being of God, on the one hand, and His energies, operations or acts of power, on the other.

"He is outside all things according to His essence," writes St. Athanasius, "but He is in all things through His acts of power." "We know the essence through the energy," St. Basil affirms. "No one has ever seen the essences of God, but we believe in the essence because we experience the energy." By the essence of God is meant His otherness, by the energies His nearness ...

... The essence, then, signifies the radical transcendence of God; the energies, His immanence and omnipresence. When Orthodox speak of the divine energies, they do not mean by this an emanation from God, an "intermediary" between God and man, or a "thing" or "gift" that God bestows. On the contrary, the energies are God Himself in His activity and self-manifestation. When a man knows or participates in the divine energies, he truly knows or participates in God Himself, so far as this is possible for a created being. But God is God, and we are human; and so, while He possesses us, we cannot in the same way possess Him.

... [I]t would be equally misleading to regard the energies as a "part" of God. The Godhead is simple and indivisible, and has no parts. The essence signifies the whole God as He is in Himself; the energies signify the whole God as He is in action. God in His entirety is completely present in each of His divine energies. Thus the essence-energies distinction is a way of stating simultaneously that the whole God is inaccessible, and that the whole God in His outgoing love has rendered Himself accessible to man.

By virtue of this distinction between the divine essence and the divine energies, we are able to affirm the possibility of a direct or mystical union between man and God - what the Greek Fathers term the theosis of man, his "deification" - but at the same time we exclude any pantheistic identification between the two: for man participates in the energies of God, not in the essence. There is union, but not fusion or confusion. Although "oned" with the divine, man still remains man; he is not swallowed up or annihilated, but between him and God there continues always to exist an "I-Thou" relationship of person to person.

Such, then, is our God: unknowable in His essence, yet known in His energies; beyond and above all that we can think or express, yet closer to us than our own heart. Through the apophatic way we smash in pieces all the idols or mental images that we form of Him, for we know that all are unworthy of His surpassing greatness. Yet at the same time, through our prayer and through our active service in the world, we discover at every moment His divine energies, His immediate presence in each person and each thing. Daily, hourly we touch Him. We are, as Francis Thompson said, "in no strange land." All around us is the "many splendored thing" ...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Orthodoxy and Orthodoxy

I just read a fantastic book. And the interesting thing is that the author so happens to be my aunt now. She's my husband's mother's brother's wife (...'s cousin's great-aunt's former roommate ...), Maria Poggi Johnson. She lives midst an Orthodox Jewish community in Scranton, PA. Her book on what she's learned is Strangers and Neighbors. Unfortunately, I haven't yet been able to meet this new aunt of mine and her family, but I'm sure they would have story upon story.

I for one misunderstood the world of Orthodox Judaism. My husband and I are Orthodox Christians, and I still understood it to be an entirely different approach to faith. Granted, there are large differences between Judaism and Christianity (oh hey there, Jesus), but Maria laid out how much we can learn from them. I still believe that Orthodox Judaism and Orthodox Christianity are pretty dissimilar, but the hearts we have behind our disciplines are closer than I thought. These Jews actually make me feel pretty lazy. While we have disciplines, such as prayer and fasting, and we each honor the Sabbath in our own way, Orthodox Jews take the law literally and to heart in observing its specific rules and regulations. But, like those in the Orthodox Church, the benefits are meaningful. They bring us closer to God and understanding His very nature. They bring us closer to ourselves and what we were made to be.

My favorite chapter in Maria's book is the 4th one. She discusses the holiness, the set-apartness of the Orthodox Jewish people. Even as adults, we all try to fit in, conform to what it is that people are doing. I think we have an underlying fear of exposure. Blending in is easier. The Orthodox understand they are different, but that is not their curse; it's their calling. They are meant to stand out, to be God's people and to be known as such. What an amazing call to receive with fervency and with so much joy.

I highly recommend this book, for each chapter is just as good. And there's a lot we all can learn, no matter what our faith.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Preparation is Not so Exciting.

I let blogging become daunting. By pretending I need to write epically. About great lessons I'm learning and adventures I'm having. This blog is titled for adventure anyway. But there's something beautiful in the subtle, too, I guess.

And I'm thankful for the normal tidbits of life. The first month of my marriage involved a lot of moving around. We stayed home, in Minneapolis, the first few days, to spend time with family, as our move to Japan was imminent. Then it was off to Madison to visit our sister (I claim her now, too). Then a mere 7 days after our wedding, we flew off to Newport, Rhode Island for three-week Navy training, Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) school. In those three weeks, we spent both weekends in Boston, scurrying around, and shoving as much into two weekends as a couple of passionate people can.

Then we finally arrived in Japan. And by then we were both exhausted. Ready to settle down, stay in one spot, live in a place you can call home. Even then, there were endless places to explore, as Japan is a culture chocked full of history and distinction, and our peninsula is riddled with beaches and coffee shops and yakiniku stands and shrines and a giant Buddha. Oh, and Tokyo's just around the bend. Don't even get me started on how giant that metropolis is.

I guess you could say, though I thrive on excitement and thirst for adventure, I now appreciate a little differently those norms in our lives. Those doing-laundry, feeding-the-cat, making-lunch days. So I'm going to tell you about my latest project. You see, I find little necessity to find work out here. My heart lies with wildlife, African in particular. So I'm trying to fill my time wisely. I want to be inspired. And I want to be ready for the future. I still want to work on safari, and it's inching closer. It won't happen for another 4-5 years, of course, but I refuse to compromise this dream that lays so heavy on my heart to wasted time. That would be silly.

My goal is to learn as much information as I can about African wildlife before venturing to train there. On my own, I can't learn everything I'll need - first aid, how to fire a rifle, how to approach megafauna, how to camp ... But I can learn wildlife identification. And I can learn their ecology and behavior, too.

So our office has been transformed. The wallpaper now consists of photos of antelope, giraffe, and, as of today, hippopotamuses. I have made flash cards to quiz myself. Yes, this is actually true. Like a 7th grader would do ;)

But it's fascinating. I've learned that there's actually a deer in Africa. A deer. In a small blip in Northern Tunisia. Nothing else in Africa has antlers. I've learned there's a thing called a chevrotain, and that most hooved animals (ungulates) are ruminants (cud chewers). Even giraffes. I've been a bit disgusted to discover the giant forest hog. I thought I'd seen a lot. I've experienced bush babies and vervet monkeys and the African lion and hippopotamuses and the common warthog and wild dogs and, for a split second, a serval. But I am yet again mind blown by the animal kingdom. The vastness of it can't be covered. We know so little, and while I'm thankful for the wild places still out there, I'm also thankful we try to discover hidden treasures like these.

I hope you visit me on safari someday. Plan for 2017. I think I'll be ready by then.