The Naked Beauty of Winter Trees: When Words Won’t Come

Here in Durban, South Africa, we don’t really have a winter. Temperatures drop no lower than 9 or 10 degrees Celsius (48 or so Fahrenheit) and the trees, many of which are tropical succulents, remain green all year round. 

In contrast, when visiting the UK over Christmas at the end of last year, where temperatures are cooler and winter is real, I was struck afresh by a landscape punctuated by the skeletal outlines of bare trunks and twisted branches. Shapes, textures, and patterns usually lost under the finery of foliage were now revealed in all their naked beauty.

And that got me thinking. How often do I allow myself to be stripped of all that covers and hides? To let fall all the things that I think identify and define me? Do I persist in trying to be an evergreen succulent when, in fact, I am created deciduous, required every now and then to be stripped back to the bare essentials of who God says I amHis forgiven creature, His blood-bought child, His redeemed Beloved?  

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve found it increasingly hard to sit down and write, to unearth the concepts that need words for their expression. I’ve struggled to find the right phrases, to paint the pictures I normally so enjoy creating. In fact, I’ve found it hard to even find the images that need to be painted. Each day, I set myself a goal or task, only to find myself unable to complete what I start. The sense of frustration and the nagging feeling that I’m not doing enough has been nibbling away at me.

So, yesterday, I decided simply to stop. To do something else, to take the day off, to tell myself I wasn’t even going to think about my to-do list. I slept in a little later than normal, ate what I felt like when I felt like it, watched a bit of TV, and read a novel. The weather, which has been so dry for weeks, took a turn towards the wet, and I revelled in the sound of the rain falling, watched as the ground grew soggy, and delighted in the damp smell of a refreshed garden.

By the middle of the day, I was ready to pause, sit, and reflect. My thoughts, inevitably, turned to my writing. I began to wonder why my next book, which I am impatient to get started on and yet seem unable to develop beyond the first few pages, was proving so elusive. I began to ask God for answers and for a stirring that would renew my focus and unlock my imagination. And He started— very gently—to remind me of what He has spoken in the past: “Write what you see in a book.” This was His very specific command to me a couple of years ago. And I’ve done that. My first book was published in May of this year. But then I’ve added to that marketing, social media posts, newsletters, speaking engagements, and fundraisers. All beautiful signs of summer, like green leaves of health and life, but not the solidity of the trunk and its branches.

Have I the courage to let the leaves fall, to stand naked in the simplicity of God’s call, silhouetted for all to see? To trust that God will do with me what He chooses when He chooses? Do I believe that growth is determined by how deep my roots are rather than the lushness of my leaves? 

Funnily enough, after our “conversation” and being shaken a little by the wind of the Spirit, ideas began to form and coalesce, planning became a poem. And words appeared.

 

About Anna Jensen

image002I am a British ex-pat who has lived in South Africa for nearly as long as in England. I have exchanged squirrels in the garden for monkeys; the caw of crows with the terrified-seeming cry of the hadeda ibis. I swelter under a hot summer sun, rather than shiver in the freezing rain.

And it is here, under a wide-open sky, that I have begun to write in response to a call from Jesus to ‘write what I see in a book.’  My first book, The Outskirts of His Glory was published in May of this year.

I trust the eyes of your heart will be opened as you read the words I’m privileged to put on pages.

Contact Jensen at:

Website

Facebook:   @annaloujensen

Twitter:       @annalouj

Instagram:  @annaloujens

 

Write What You See

Submitted by Anna Jensen

 

“Write what you see in a book.” Those were the words leaping out at me from the page as I read the story of John’s vision of the resurrected Jesus in Revelation Chapter 1. Could this living Jesus also be speaking to me, asking me to write down the observations, impressions, and insights I had received whilst travelling from place to place, here, in Southern Africa?

It would appear so! I had been sitting in my garden, reflecting on a recent trip that we, as a family, had made to Zimbabwe. We had been based in Harare, but from there had taken the day-long drive over to Victoria Falls, a must-stop location on our visit. In my mind, I relived the moment of our exploration of the Falls themselves, as we wandered through the pay-to-view area of the National Park. We followed the pathway, drawing ever close to the thunderous roar of tonnes of water falling from a river 1,708 metres (5,604 ft.) wide down a drop of 108 metres (354 ft.) into the depths of the ravine below. We stood, as close to the edge as we dared, the sound so loud we were unable to speak to each other; the spray and mist envelopped and drenched us despite the waterproof jackets we wore as supposed protection.

I thought about those verses in Revelation 1, where John, turning to see the voice speaking to him, encounters the resurrected, victorious Jesus in all His heavenly glory: the Son of Man with eyes like flames of fire, feet like burnished bronze, and a voice that sounded like rushing waters. I realized, with a start, that I had experienced something of what it is like to stand near “rushing waters.” I had been silenced by their deafening. Soaked by their extravagance. Awed by their tumultuous power. 

The voice of Jesus silences our doubts, our insecurities, and the lies that are whispered in our ears. It soaks us through to our innermost being, washing, cleansing, invigorating us. Just as Victoria Falls overwhelmed us, so Jesus will overwhelm us—if we allow ourselves to draw close enough.

I sat in my garden and wished that everyone could visit somewhere like Victoria Falls and experience what I had, wished they could be shown a truth as I had been shown. Returning attention to the Bible on my lap, I again skimmed through the passage and was immediately arrested by the phrase, “Write what you see in a book” (Rev 1:11). I knew Jesus was speaking directly to me, asking me to put into words what He had shown me, to share with others the Victoria Falls experience, though they may never make the trip.

 

DSCN3081

 

And so began the journey that became my first book, The Outskirts of His Glory. Not wishing to run off on a wild goose chase of my own imaginings, I approached a friend with “my” idea. She felt I should explore the possibility of using poetry to best express the concepts and impressions I had. My initial response was negative, feeling I was unqualified, untrained, and unable to tackle that kind of project. After a few online poetry courses, I felt a glimmer of hope. I remembered the scribbles of my teenage years and felt a little more enthusiastic. 

And before I knew it, I was working at something I’ve come to love, to be passionate about, and to be utterly fulfilled by. I am doing what I was asked to do: to write what I see in a book. I trust there is much more to see and many more books to write.

The following is one of my poems:

The voice

 

About Anna Jensen

image002

I am a British ex-pat who has lived in South Africa for nearly as long as in England. I have exchanged squirrels in the garden for monkeys; the caw of crows with the terrified-seeming cry of the hadeda ibis. I swelter under a hot summer sun, rather than shiver in the freezing rain.

And it is here, under a wide-open sky, that I have begun to write in response to a call from Jesus to ‘write what I see in a book.’  My first book, The Outskirts of His Glory was published in May of this year.

I trust the eyes of your heart will be opened as you read the words I’m privileged to put on pages.

Contact Jensen at:

Website

Facebook:   @annaloujensen

Twitter:       @annalouj

Instagram:  @annaloujens

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