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 am—His 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
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.
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