Wednesday, December 7, 2011

She Floats, But Do I?

My husband adopted a cat before I came out to Japan. His name is Lord Byron, and I know we have him because of me. So the house won't feel so empty when Curt is underway. But I have a feeling this cat is going to, at times, drive me insane. He just spent 3 minutes at my side meowing into my ear. And this cat has no subtle meow.

It makes me realize even more that love does hurt. A cat is not enough. Sam from Love Actually was right. There is something agonizing about being in love. Because the more you love, the more you have to lose. And the more absence hurts. Marriage is no solve-all, my friends, and thank God I wasn't looking for one when I got married. It's actually a tough road that beckons your commitment to a fierce relationship requiring your heart and your selflessness. And if you build a crappy marriage, you have to deal with mending it, or just maintaining it, I guess. If you build a great marriage, you've given yourself a lot to lose. And that's scary. Because maybe you will someday.

But hey, love is risky. As it should be. And just as painful as it is rewarding.

There's something heavy that lies in the unknown. In the Navy, we face an uncertainty of when he (or she) will be gone. For how long. And when they're coming back. And for how long. It's been a blessing that Curt's ship has been docked for our first few months out here. I've been able to adapt to an overseas station with my husband. Most spouses aren't so lucky. But the Shiloh is warming up her joints and stretching our her back. She's soon ready to go out and taste that salty water.

As I sit here and sigh in the face of reality, I somehow feel like not talking about it. I'm not sure I've ever felt this feeling before. LoL. Separation is imminent, but I'm breathing in slow realization and preparation. Quiet preparation. Quiet confusion. Of what to do. Of how to deal. Or how to let it teach me.

When I'm in our 3-story, small Japanese house, I am just a person in a building. When Curt's here too, it's our home.

I'm about to learn a lot, struggle a lot, and probably change a lot. So here's to hope, here's to God, and His desire to burn away the chaff. Here's to a better me, a refined character, and a heart that keeps beating.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Welcome Back, G-Dub.

Today base is bustling. The commissary is twice as busy as it usually is, and will probably soon have empty shelves. There are men and women walking around in dress uniform. And there's just something in the air. Today, the USS George Washington pulled into port. It's been underway in various parts of the Pacific since I got here two months ago. The GW is the one and only aircraft carrier stationed at Yokosuka Naval Base. I saw it when I visited my husband in Japan in August, and I was amazed at the large hunk of metal before me. That thing is giant. And astounding. How something that big and heavy floats in water is beyond me.

Anyway, that's not the point.

There are families walking around base today. Members of the GW crew with their wives and children, just walking around and enjoying reunion. Soaking it in. Families in the military don't have the easiest lives, but it's the moments like that, when you see your husband's face for the first time in months, that keep us going. And all of base shares in your joy. Since moving to Japan, I haven't had to see my husband go underway, but I'll definitely remember today when he does. We military wives (and husbands) don't sign up for this. However, we can take pride in the honor of this calling, and joy in looking ahead to reunion. After all, it's all worth it.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Draw Me a Sheep.

I’ve been bogged down lately. I’m usually pretty enthusiastic about journaling, about getting my thoughts down on paper. I guess you could say I’m old fashioned. ;) And I also typically love to blog. I always have something to say. And you’d think that would be true especially now.

But I think I just wanted to think simple thoughts for a bit. As we grow up our thoughts, ideas, wonderings become so profound and complex. I guess you could say that’s an evolution, but sometimes, I just need simple wit to make me smile. Period.

I didn’t intend to read The Little Prince again, but something brought me back to it. Man, I love that book. It’s clever and simple and creative. It also made me laugh out loud in Starbucks. Yup, I’m now that girl. It’s interesting, because Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote this book at the end of his life. You’d think what he expressed through his characters would be deep, enriched. Maybe he found something more important out there in that desert ...

{oooh left you hanging so that maybe you’ll read it for yourself}

So I guess I’m not going to say anything profound this time. But just give the world a reminder of The Little Prince in it’s plainness. Here are my favorite bits.

‘Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is exhausting for children to have to provide explanations over and over again.’

‘I have spent lots of time with grown-ups. I have seem them at close range ... which hasn’t much improved my opinion of them.’

‘[Upon discovering the only rose he sees isn’t the only one at all] You’re not at all like my rose. You’re nothing at all yet. No one has tamed you and you haven’t tamed anyone. You’re the way my fox was. He was just a fox like a hundred thousand others. But I’ve made him my friend, and now he’s the only fox in all the world.‘ And the roses were humbled.

[The fox] ‘Here is my secret: One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.’

[The fox, again] ‘It’s the time you spent on your rose that makes your rose so important.’

{Reminds me of the idea that man loves most what he has worked for.}

‘Only the children know what they are looking for.’

‘You risk tears if you get yourself tamed [in this sense, meaning attached, tied to another].’

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wowza! It has been forever and a day since I last posted. April? Really? I've been thinking about this lately, but have shied away from it because a ridiculously amount of stuff has happened in my life.

I don't know if I can even call myself Kernal anymore. I'm actually a Gaynor now! I guess you could call this blog The Adventures of Gaynors (ha - not quite the same ring) since life is only getting more exciting from here. Curt and I got married a measly 25 days ago. Since then, we've scurried around Minneapolis, spent a weekend in Madison, and set up camp in Newport, RI for a three-week Navy school. We travelled both of the weekends we've been on the East Coast to Boston. If that's not enough moving around for you, I start the 26-hour journey to Yokosuka, Japan tomorrow morning. This is our current station, where we have a small three-story Japanese house a block off-base and a very loud adult cat named Lord Byron. What a life. It's no wonder I'm anxious to get there and make a life for us. And to see what "normal" married life is like.

So as life settles down, I hope to post more often. So stay tuned, but knowing me, don't hold your breath.

(for the record, I will still hold true to the Kernal name; especially since my husband still calls me CK. I'm not the only one this name transition is weird for ;)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Father, Son, Spirit.

My venture into Orthodoxy has often left me wondering about things I thought I had a handle on. When you first become a Christian, you start to learn about the basics - Creation, Christ’s death and resurrection, etc. I thought I was set on these. Not necessarily that I understood them fully, just as much as I could. Of course I let the mystery that is God be what it is. But I could, with confidence, put a word or two to these basics to try to explain them.

Now I feel like Orthodoxy is ripping things open to go deeper and hashing out more than I ever thought I could understand. Confused? Me too. And the topic of the day is the Trinity. Lord Almighty. I always knew it was touchy, and not really something that would ever cease blowing my mind. Growing up, I was a Lutheran, and we never looked into the idea of the Trinity much. So when people try to explain it, I realize what a fine line exists.

Get this:

One essence in three persons. God is one and God is three: the Holy Trinity is a mystery of unity in diversity, and of diversity in unity. Father, Son, and Spirit are ‘one in essence’ (homo-ousios), yet each is distinguished from the other two by personal characteristics. ‘The divine is indivisible in its divisions’ (Gregory of Nazianzus, Orations), for the persons are ‘united yet not confused, distinct yet not divided’ (John of Damascus, On the Orthodox Faith); ‘both the distinction and the union alike are paradoxical’ (Gregory of Nazianzus, Orations).”

But how do they relate to each other? Apparently, the Father is the source, the origin, and the Son is begotten from the Father. The Son is equal to the Father and coeternal with Him, but is not sourceless like the Father. The Spirit also has a source in the Father, but has a different relationship than that of Son and Father. The Spirit proceeds from the Father.

This was a big source of trouble for the Church and disagreement on it, in part, led to the division between the western (Catholic) Church and eastern (Orthodox) Church. It manifests in what’s called the Filioque. Yup, three little words that the western Church added to the nicene creed.

In Orthodoxy, you’ll hear: “And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spake through the prophets.” [see John 15:26]

In Catholicism, you’ll hear: “And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spake through the prophets.”

Small difference, hey? That’s what I thought!

Oh my mind is so small.

I won’t get into this right now, but it just helps you realize how much of a fine line knowing and understanding God is. I like this and I hate it. I like it because the Truth of God should be specific. God isn’t about to change, and His Truth is fine-tuned to who He is. It won’t change for anything. I’m not even convinced it can.

But I hate it because I feel like at any point I can become a heretic. His nature is specific; this point of God’s essence is indeed a point. But then, how do we hit it? It’s ironic that I’m sitting next to a dart board right now. God is like the bulls eye; and He isn’t about to move. He shouldn’t. But I feel like I’m three apartments down trying to whip darts and hit God. Seems impossible.

There was a heretic in the third century, Sabellius, who said that Father, Son and Spirit weren’t three distinct persons, but simply different ‘modes’ or ‘aspects’ of one deity. How is that different from the idea of three in one? When I think of God as three distinct persons in one essence, it sounds very similar to me as three modes of a single being. The more I think about it, the more I get it, which is comforting. But still, how do we stay in the careful balance of acknowledging the three-person nature of God without beginning to sound like a tritheist?

The ability to easily misunderstand God is, I know, allowed. And I know that God is ever-patient and gracious. I guess this post is incomplete in that I can offer no answers or remedies. I can only continually realize that I am utterly small, and though God makes Himself known, it takes forever to understand Him. It’s a good thing I have that long.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Trading a lie for the Truth

I get monthly e-mail newsletters from the church I attend out here in Madison. Good for information and to keep updated, but I never really took the time to read the reflections before. I did this time around and it floored me. Take a peek:

St. Nikolai Velimirovic

On the Purpose of Self-Denial

{crazy emphasis added by Carrie Kern}

The first man, Adam, also denied himself when he fell into sin, but he denied his real, true self. Seeking from men that they deny themselves, the Lord seeks that they deny their false selves. Put more simply: Adam denied the Truth, and clave to a lie; now the Lord seeks of Adam’s descendants that they deny the lie that cleave once more to the Truth from which they had fallen away. Therefore, to deny oneself means to deny the deceitful non-being that has been imposed on us in place of our God-given being. We must deny the earthboundness that has, for us, replaced spirituality, and the passions that have replaced good works; the servile fear that has darkened in us our sonship of God and the grumbling against God that has killed within the spirit of obedience to Him. We must deny evil thoughts, evil desires and evil deeds. We must deny the idolatrous worship of nature and our body. In brief: we must deny all that we reckon is “me”, but is in reality not us but the devil and sin, corruption, illusion and death. Oh, let us deny the evil habits that have become second nature to us; let us deny this “second nature”, for it is not our nature as God created it, but an accumulated and hardened illusion and self-delusion in ourselves - a hypocritical lie that goes by our name, and we by its ... For, by this [self-denial], the old, animal-like man in us is put to death, and the new man, made in God’s image and immortal, is raised to life. As the Apostle says: “Our old man is crucified,” and explains at once why: “that we should not serve sin” (Romans 6:6)... [And by this self-denial] we shall find our strength in Him our courage and our consolation. He will be to us light on a dark path, health in sickness, a companion in loneliness, joy in suffering and riches in want. A lamp is left burning all night in a sick-room, and in the night of this life, Christ’s inextinguishable light is needed, to ease our pain and keep alive our hope in the dawning of day.

Doesn’t it make you ask the question, who am I really? What am I like in essence? What is this full self of mine?

I’m an expert at asking questions that can’t really be answered. I’ll just put that out into the universe and let it sit. But that sure is mind-blowing.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Oh There's More

I’m reading a book to learn more about the Orthodox Church. I’ve been attending on and off for about a year, depending on when I’m in the country and when I’m not borderline freaked out by how different Orthodoxy is from any other Christian experience I’ve ever had. I expected this book to be mostly historical - about what was discussed at ecumenical councils, the crusades, etc. And granted, these things are discussed. But the heavy, intense, mind-blowing, deeper-than-I’ve-ever-thought-possible theology of many of these councils is also brought up. One thing I absolutely love about Orthodoxy is that I experience the Christian thought that’s been going on for 2000 years. It feels more linear than protestantism - and don’t get me wrong, I grew up Lutheran, but an older Church with a longer period of trying to figure this whole church thing out opens you up to a little more. Though I’m a deep thinker - there’s always a question or seven in my head, which lead to a question or seven more - by pursuing Orthodoxy, I’m being opened to mind-blowing things I never even thought about. The Orthodox have thought long and hard about who God is, and it astounds me.

Bear with me. I know nothing. So this post will probably be choppy.

Fourteenth century. The seven main ecumenical councils (a bunch of bishops getting together to discuss the Trinity or the nature Christ or the use of icons, etc. in order to avoid heretical thought in the Church) have come and gone, but the ideas are still being applied in new ways centuries later. Barlaam the Calabrian professed that we can only know God indirectly, that the immediate experience of God is impossible in this present life. I’m trying to avoid overwhelming detail here, but Barlaam met a crazy dialogue with St. Gregory Palamas (really awesome Greek hermit monk and then Archbishop of Thessalonica), who disagreed wholeheartedly with him by explaining that we know the energies of God, but not his essence, an idea that comes from St. Basil. From here, I think I’ll let the book speak for itself ...

“‘God is not a nature,’ [Gregory] wrote, ‘for He is above all nature; He is not a being, for He is above all beings ... no single thing of all that is created has or ever will have even the slightest communion with the supreme nature or nearness to it.’ But however remote from us in His essence, yet in His energies God has revealed Himself to us. These energies are not something that exists apart from God, not a gift which God confers upon humans; they are God Himself in His action and revelation to the world. God exists complete and entire in each of His divine energies. The world, as Gerard Manley Hopkins said, is charged with the grandeur of God; all creation is a gigantic Burning Bush, permeated but not consumed by the ineffable and wondrous fire of God’s energies.

It is through these energies that God enters into a direct and immediate relationship with humankind. In relation to us humans, the divine energy is in fact nothing else than the grace of God; grace is not just a ‘gift’ from God, not just an object which God bestows on humans, but a direct manifestation of the living God Himself, a personal encounter between creature and Creator. ‘Grace signifies all the abundance of the divine nature, in so far as it is communicated to men.’ When we say that the saints have been transformed or ‘deified’ by the grace of God, what we mean is that they have a direct experience of God Himself. They know God - that is to say, God in His energies, not in His essence.”

I don’t know if that blows your mind in any way. But it sure blows mine to even think about God’s energies permeating everything and the world as being a Burning Bush of God Himself. Even try to picture that ...

It seems like many heretics in history have made the gulf between us and God too wide. And this is where Truth comes in; it is here to “safeguard our direct approach to God, to uphold our full deification and entire redemption.”

I have in the last year felt humbled by the Holiness of God. I have even let it go too far - to the point where I feel unable to approach God. At all times. But I need to remember that in all these things I’m learn and in all these ways I’m growing, there is an opportunity for direct experience with God’s energies, that I too can be a Burning Bush, a wondrous fire of God’s energies.


Monday, March 7, 2011


The program I participated in last semester, the School for Field Studies, just posted a promotional video of our Center Director, Moses Okello. I want to share it because it's a perfect four-and-a-half minute depiction of what we did last semester, and a mere but representative glimpse into our experience. Dr. Okello was our backbone last semester. As center director, he wasn't able to be around very much. But he did all he could to enthuse us about wildlife management and experiencing East African culture. He even inspired us to have a goat slaughter and roast, and of course, for the guys to participate in male bonding by eating goat testicles. You can only imagine how interesting this Moses Okello is.

Anyway, check it out the video here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I started my second job tonight. We opened Tanner's Bar & Grill in Middleton, Wisconsin. Going into it, I thought it would be terrifying. Receiving the menu yesterday and having only 4 hours of training, which mostly involved cleaning, under my belt, I thought it would be a nightmare of now knowing what I was doing. I don't know if you've ever had to memorize a menu before, but it's difficult.

I learned a lot tonight.

Oh it definitely was chaos. Tonight was our soft opening, so we offered free food and the drink profit will go to the American Red Cross. Yeh. Free food and good drinks. It was insanity. The food took forever because our kitchen was so backed up. I mean, why get two appetizers when you can try four for free?! So people had to wait for their food. We were a bit sloppy, unorganized, and we definitely tripped over our feet.

But people liked us.

One of my tables was of four guys. They ordered 4 entrees, an appetizer, and 8 beers. The food took an eternity. I felt awful. But when I got my tip, they gave me 25%. I was shocked. What did I learn? Sincerity matters. The beauty of life is that you don't have to be perfect. You can mess up and make mistakes constantly, but people will take you as you are if you're sincere, if you are genuine. If I had given them great, speedy food, but was a crabapple, I wouldn't have received 25%. Not a chance. But I apologized probably 25 times because I really was sorry. And instead of hide the disorganization (although it was pretty obvious) and owning up to it, it was owned up to.

I guess my encouragement is to be sincere. Don't hide your mistakes or the places you're imperfect. Own up to them and you may find that people take you as you are, and that is far more beautiful than trying to appear put together.

My other encouragement is for you to come out to Tanner's. Wednesday, Thursday, come get free food. We're starting a limited menu tomorrow (we learned our lesson and will not back up our kitchen like we did tonight!), but food is free and drink profit goes to the American Red Cross Badger Chapter. You won't regret it, friends.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Be Ye Perfect.

My mind is blown. I feel numb. And my heart is doing some sort of fluttering thing inside my chest.

C.S. Lewis is getting intense. Throughout reading the last section of Mere Christianity, all I’m thinking is, Frick God, what do you want from me? When He says He wants all of me, I don’t understand. How? How do I do that?? How does this work??

Yeah, pretty resistant.

God said that we should become perfect. And apparently, He meant it. That’s actually scary. Lewis interprets this as, “The only help I will give is to help to become perfect. You may want something less: but I will give you nothing less.”

God is crazy.

“Make no mistake. If you let Me, I will make you perfect. The moment you put yourself in My hands, that is what you are in for. Nothing less, or other, than that. You have free will, and if you choose, you can push Me away. But if you do not push Me away, understand that I am going to see this job through. Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, whatever inconceivable purification it may cost you after death [Interjection: I assume Lewis is referring to purgatory?], whatever it costs Me, I will never rest, until you are literally perfect - until My Father can say without reservation that He is well pleased with you, as He said He was well pleased with Me. This I can and will do. But I will not do anything less.”


Ok so it’s in God’s power and will to do this - and I need not get myself to perfection. By surrendering everything, God’s way can be made to make me more like Himself. But I can’t wrap my head around what this means for good gifts. It seems all take, all you do is give to God, which actually seems worth it because He’ll give you Himself and make you perfect. What is better than that? But how do good gifts come into play? How can I accept marriage, children, a good family, health, etc. when receiving anything but a new heart doesn’t seem like part of this equation. It may make sense to you, and as I’m typing this I feel like it’s a no-brainer and should make sense to me, too. Well, it doesn’t.


I was reading Romans 12 as well earlier today:

I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice - the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person [a perfect person?] by changing the way that you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect (v. 1-2, NLT).

And then Paul goes on to command morality, to inspire people of virtue:

- Be humble (v. 3)

- Do well what you’re good at (v. 6-8)

- Love people sincerely (v. 9-10)

- Work hard (v. 11)

- Be patient (v. 12)

- Be generous and hospitable (v. 13)

- Be at peace with people (v. 16)

- Avoid revenge (v. 17-19)

- Do good (v. 21)

Is that God’s full and complete will for us? To be moral people? To be perfect? I haven’t been able to shake the idea in my head of a blueprint - go here, do this, etc. Does God work specifics like that? Or does He make us who are and establish guidance to be virtuous, and then give us creativity to take steps in life on our own? Is it - go here, do this - or - be good, love people, figure out the rest based on that ... ?

I always though of free will in this sense - the creativity to figure out one’s own life. But maybe it’s simply (and only) the power to choose (or not choose) life with God. If He takes all of us - does it mean we surrender that creativity too?

I think I’m always asking myself, what kind of meaningful life work am I going to have? But I need a mental shift that fosters other questions. What can You use me for? How can I glorify You? How can I become less? What kind of meaningful work can You do with my life?

This is heavy stuff.

“We may be content to remain what we call ‘ordinary people’: but He is determined to carry out a quite different plan [to bring us beyond the ordinary and into perfection]. To shrink back from that plan is not humility: it is laziness and cowardice. To submit to it is not conceit or megalomania: it is obedience.”

BAM. And that is what life is about. The relationship we have with God which entails our trying and trying again, day in and out, to give up, surrender, forgo rights to ourselves, that God would make us perfect, like Himself, complete creatures who are brought back to what the Creator intended.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

I haven’t blogged in over two months. Last time I posted, I was in a rush about to leave Kilimanjaro Bush Camp for Nairobi to catch a plane to Athens, Greece the next day. Phew a lot has happened.

So the nutshell! I flew to Greece, got engaged (:D), got stuck in London, finally flew home, had Christmas, went to camp, saw friends, moved back to Madison, have two jobs now. Oh, and I graduated. Oh, and I’m getting married.

See why the nutshell is all I can handle to tell you?

But wow, God. WOW GOD. He is challenging me in ways I can’t even describe. I’m finally opening up to Him again and although I’m still not in tune with Him and can’t understand Him as I used to, I’m getting to know Him again. I’ve had moments of sorrow and moments of utter joy. I’ve sat and heard nothing. I’ve sat and heard too much. I’ve been spiritually attacked and I’ve learned of my own (Christ-given) authority. I’ve have been over- and underwhelmed. I have been confused. Well, most of the time I’m confused. But my life in the Lord has become so dynamic.

I’m reading Mere Christianity. Clive! You blow me away! Highly recommend. Anyway. Today, I was reading his answer to the question, Is Christianity hard or easy? His answer is both. But I’m not going to get into that. I’m simply going to offer how he sums up what Christ asks of us.

“The Christian way is different: harder, and easier. Christ says, ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have no come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked - the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.’”

Guh. Munch on that one.