How’s it going with you this beautiful sunny but freezing winter’s day (speaking from a South African perspective that is!)
What state is your country in with regards to lockdown or stay-at-home orders? Please post your response in a comment below.
Here in South Africa, we are currently on Day 79 of Lockdown! However, the government had to ease up in some fields or the country would never have survived economically. So we’re into the 2nd phase of returning to normal, i.e. Lockdown Stage 3.
Sadly, many people think they have the right to “do their own thing” and there is chaos in so many areas. Yet, as I watch the TV news, it looks as if South Africa is not alone in this. For us, our initial lockdown was so early and severe, and therefore excellent, that we received praise from across the world. However, we have yet to reach our peak and now numbers are escalating every day.
Today, I’d like to introduce you to another South African author, Anna Jensen, who will explain how she was not always South African. So without more ado . . . here is Anna.
Introducing Anna Jensen
Shirley: Anna, it’s great to have you here today. I know you haven’t always lived in Africa. Where are you from? And what in particular makes Africa so special for you?
Anna: Hi Shirley, it’s great to be here – thank you for having me.
No, I haven’t always lived in Africa. I moved here just over twenty years ago from the UK when I married a Durban boy.
What makes Africa so special? I love living under a wide-open sky, both literally and metaphorically; I love both the possibilities and the challenges that living here offers.
Shirley: What family do you have?
Anna: Back in the UK I still have my parents and sister, and her family. Craig (my husband) and I have two children. Our daughter, Caragh, who’s 16, is currently trying to navigate her way through a most unusual matric year, thanks to Lockdown. We also have a son, Leal, who’s 14.
Shirley: Oh my goodness, poor Caragh. What a challenge that must be for her.
For overseas readers:
Our schools started to open this week with the first phase. This has seen two years of students returning to school. The matrics, and the senior class in the junior school section, returned to school, complete with masks, social distancing, and strict sanitizing practices.
Matric – short for Matriculation – is a series of examinations at the end of the final year of formal schooling. The students then move on to universities or other forms of tertiary education. It is the most important and crucial year of our South African school system.)
Anna and Lockdown
Shirley: Anna, what difference has lockdown made to your own way of life? I know you have found an unusual way to keep track of time during the lockdown. Please share with us what prompted you to start this, and what your ultimate goal is?
Anna: Well, first and foremost, the lockdown has definitely curtailed my freedom! I usually have several hours each morning at home alone. During that time I read, pray, write, and generally do what I want when I want. Lockdown means I have the two kids at home. While they are studying and playing, Craig, who works for a local sugar company, is also working from home. Additionally, we had Craig’s mom stay here with us for the initial lockdown period as she lives alone usually.
Yes, I have embarked on a ‘square-a-day’ crochet challenge. I crochet a ‘granny square’ each day of lockdown. It’s a good way to use whatever bits of yarn I have around the house. I started it because, to be honest, I’m not finding lockdown easy. I’m struggling to concentrate and focus on too much for any length of time. A lot of other writers are keeping a journal record of this time, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to maintain that. But I do want some kind of visual record that I can look back on and remember.
I really do think this is a once-in-a-lifetime event that will be written into history books. So I wanted to create something for myself during the period. Crochet is something I enjoy, so I thought this would be a good way of providing me with something that has to be completed each day, without it being overwhelming. Of course, when I started this project, I had no idea how long it was going to last! So at the end of lockdown, I’ll have quite a pile of squares to join together to form some kind of art/craft piece. Watch this space!
Shirley: And I’m watching your progress with fascination on Facebook, one square a day. It’s a fabulous idea.
Anna and her Writing
Shirley: Going back to writing, did you always want to be a writer? Or what prompted you to start writing?
Anna: Yes, I think I probably did always want to be a writer, though I only realise that now that I’m actually doing it! I used to write and illustrate short stories for my sister and me when we were kids, then progressed onto school magazines. In my teenage years, I wrote a bit of poetry, for personal consumption only! As an adult I hadn’t written anything until about four years ago, I got stuck into writing my first book, ‘The Outskirts of His Glory’.
The short answer as to what prompted me to start writing properly is, of course, God! The longer answer is that I found I had more time available to me. First, we handed over the local church we had been leading to another couple. Then, with the kids being older and so at school for longer each day, I found myself wondering what I should be doing with myself. After feeling inspired to get started, I continued.
Shirley: What genre do you write in, and why?
Anna: I basically write Christian devotional material, including poetry. I think God speaks to us in so many creative ways and my heart is to help people to slow down and take the time to listen. We are his sheep, and we hear his voice – it’s just we often don’t recognise it’s Jesus we’re hearing.
Anna and The Outskirts of His Glory
Shirley: I have read your book, The Outskirts of His Glory and I really found it to be a blessing. I loved the devotional readings based on places you’d been in Africa. Please tell us a little about the book. What inspired you to write it?
Anna: Thank you! Yes, my book has about 19 short chapters many of which are based in and around South Africa and neighbouring countries. The inspiration for the book was a visit to family in Zimbabwe a few years ago. While there, we visited Victoria Falls. On returning home, I was sitting reading my Bible when I came across the passage in Revelation where John describes the voice of Jesus as being like the sound of rushing waters. It occurred to me that Victoria Falls provides a perfect example of what that would be like, and I wished others could experience what I had. Returning to my reading, the next verse that literally jumped out at me was ‘write what you see in a book’. And so The Outskirts of His Glory was born!
Shirley: It is an unusual title. What prompted you to choose it?
It came about whilst chatting with a friend about the initial idea I had to write the book. I love to work in collaboration, and so had wanted the input of trusted friends right from the start. As we spoke over coffee, I explained that I was really taken with the passage in Job 26 where the whole expanse of creation is described as the outskirts of God’s ways and that they are a mere whisper when compared to God himself. I realised that the book I was going to write was about describing those whispers, those outskirts of the glory that is God.
Shirley: Fascinating. I love that. What did you do to celebrate when you finally finished writing this book?
Anna: Gosh, I’m not sure! I don’t think I quite realised what an accomplishment it was. After I finished writing and editing, I sent the manuscript through to my publisher in the UK and waited nervously for a response. I did cry when I opened the first printed ‘proof copy’ here in South Africa!
Anna’s writing future
Shirley: What are you currently working on? May we have a sneak peak? (about 50 words + – )
I’ve got a couple of things on the go at the moment. I’ve recently finished a short devotional journal type of book, which was already to go to print but then we hit lockdown! Myself and my designer are looking at ways that we could possibly convert it to an interactive ebook in the meantime.
And then my main project is another devotional, only this time inspired by places and people from the past. Isaac Newton stated that he could only see as far as he did because he stood on the shoulders of giants; there are giants on whose shoulders we stand without even realising they are there. I want to uncover some of those people and their stories and see what God would have us learn along the way. My working title for that book is Ghosts of Giants.
Extract from Ghosts of Giants:
Show me the manner in which a nation cares for its dead, and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land and their loyalty to high ideals.’ William Gladstone, British Prime Minister, 1809–1898.
I first heard this quote over the weekend of 6 – 9 June 2019, during the 75th anniversary commemorations of the D-Day landings on the Normandy beaches. Veterans gathered to bear witness to the events of those few days, to remember their lost friends and companions and to be honoured by world leaders and free citizens alike. Each was treated like a conquering hero, with reporters eager to hear their stories and air them live across the globe.
And yet those veterans didn’t seem to think of themselves in those terms; rather, they were normal, wrinkly elderly men whose eyes filled with tears as they allowed their memories to be disturbed. One admitted that he hadn’t slept a full night’s sleep until only a couple of years ago, thinking the nightmares and terrors were a normal part of post-war existence. An American GI described the horror of stepping over unknown numbers of dead, floating bodies as he made his way towards the beach and his own, uncertain fate.
I was moved to tears myself, as I sat and watched or listened over that weekend. I have never lived through war, never seen destruction or death on that scale, never felt the loss and sacrifice of those I know laying down their lives for the sake of freedom and home. The dust of my heart was disturbed and patterned by the gentle footsteps of those ghosts of giants.Meet Anna Jensen, South African author of The Outskirts of His Glory. https://shirleycorder.com/anna-jensen-2/ Click To Tweet
Shirley: Thank you once again, Anna, for sharing a bit about your life and writing with us. Keep safe during this difficult time, and I look forward to reading more of your books as the days go by.
Follow this link to read about another amazing venture of Anna’s – Captivated Gifts – an online Christian book and gift store.