Friday, March 25, 2011

After the Darkness, Light...

 The Begotten, The Betrayed, The Blessed.
The Gifted Trilogy by Lisa T. Bergren

An ancient secret. Dark forces that want to keep the secret hidden at all costs. An unlikely group of God’s faithful followers who are willing to stand up to those dark forces…

If you love history, adventure, romance, sweeping landscapes, and spiritual truths, The Gifted Trilogy by Lisa T. Bergren, set in 1339 Italia is a must-read series that sweeps readers from Roma to Provence, and so many wonderful places in-between.

In Corinthians, Paul speaks talks about spiritual gifts. What if there was another letter written by Paul, one that didn’t make it into the Holy Scriptures? A lost letter that once revealed, foretells the gifted, whose powerful gifts include healing, wisdom, miraculous powers, visions and faith?

Lisa Bergren plunges readers directly into the intrigue as the series opens in Constantinople, in 731, where a faithful monk is willing to lose his life over his divinely inspired illuminations of a letter that appears to have been written by the Apostle Paul. The monk's determination sets into motion a series of events that, centuries later, will bring an unlikely group of people together on a holy journey.

1339 Roma…
While Lady Daria d’Angelo is taking refuge at a convent to heal from her broken heart she makes a surprising discovery. She has a gift of healing. A woman of incredible faith, Daria immediately recognizes this is a spiritual gift from God. Father Piero, a priest at the convent, also recognizes the gift and soon takes Daria into his confidence. She is one of the gifted.

Daria agrees to go along with Father Piero on this journey. As they leave the convent, they come upon an injured knight. Gianni de Capezzana, captain of the Knights de Vaticana, was on a mission to find the sorcerer, when he was wounded and left for dead. After his encounter with Daria, Gianni pledges his loyalty to her and withdraws from his service to the church. Gianni has a strong belief that God wants him here, guarding Daria from an unseen, but very real danger.

As the gifted ones begin to slowly discover each other, dark forces converge to conspire against them. Danger lurks everywhere, and Lisa Bergren doesn’t spare her characters with an easy out. After the darkness, light, becomes a concept they use to keep pushing forward as, for the glory of the Lord, they search for the strength to face their evil foe with their eyes focused on Him.

I must confess I’ve been a little apprehensive about presenting this recommendation, simply because this series is so captivating and powerful that I don’t want to risk doing a bit of injustice to the books or the author. The descriptions are breathtaking, the action heart-pounding, and the truth soul-stirring.

The journey begins in The Begotten. The battle is fierce in The Betrayed. Events happen in The Blessed that I never would have expected. Without giving anything away, as cliché as it sounds, the book lived up to the title and I truly felt blessed while reading it. In fact, several weeks ago, Dina Sleiman (from my group blog Inkwell Inspirations) asked if we’ve ever read a book that changed our lives. I was reading The Blessed at the time. It honestly changed something in me and opened my eyes to a new way to think about something I’ve been struggling with.

The Gifted Trilogy is an incredible series, and so worth every minute spent within the pages.

You can visit Lisa’s website at:, where you can read about her back list, her upcoming books, and so many other fun things. Lisa’s newest book, Waterfall, is the first book in her River of Time series.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Shy Girl's Guide to Communicating Your Way Through Life

Bashful. Shy. Timid. Reserved.
Quiet. Cautious. Wary. Guarded.

Do any of these words describe you? Who of us hasn’t experienced at least one instance of intimidation in their life? Or been afraid to speak up in a situation where you really wanted to? If it doesn’t happen to you very often, you’re one of the lucky ones who can explain it away and shrug it off as a one-time thing.

But if you’re even the slightest bit on the timid side, it’s so much more than a one-time thing. Shy girls almost never shrug it off. They carry it around with them, questioning themselves, thinking of all the witty things they wished they’d been able to say. Their hearts are too often filled with regrets. And in some cases, their timidity can be the direct cause of deep wounds.

photo by saavem courtesy of:
For those who aren’t typically shy, this can be hard to understand. In fact, shy people are often mischaracterized as being stuck-up. Oh, if those who are blessed with self-confidence only realized how far from the truth that really is. In fact, such a label can strike at the very depths of a shy person’s psyche and make it even harder for them to speak up.

Today I’m sharing tips for the shy ones among us. These tips come from someone who struggled with this for years. I affectionately refer to her as Her Shyness. If you guessed she is me, you’d be absolutely right. Today I’ll give you my personal insight into this often-times debilitating manifestation and share some tips on how I’ve been working to overcome it.

For all of my adult years (and most of my teen years), being shy has been as much a part of me as my height, weight and eye color. It has seriously interfered with my life, and did, in fact, cost me many things. A boy I really cared about in high school, a position in journalism that meant the world to me, friends, missed opportunities when I wanted so bad to speak up but sat paralyzed with fear of opening my mouth, and even respect from people I once held in the highest regard.

But, I must point out something very important. Being shy taught me many things about life, and as much as I want to banish it from my personality once and for all, it’s difficult to dislike a trait that taught me compassion and empathy for others, and strengthened my relationship with God.

… “Be strong and courageous… Do not be afraid or discouraged,
for the Lord God, my God, is with you…” ~~1 Chronicles 28:5

What’s Holding You Back?
This is one of the first things you have to figure out, because that is key to conquering the battle. Do some serious soul-searching. Did something happen when you were a child that dashed your self-confidence? Do you have issues with your self image? Would you be surprised to know people aren’t sitting around analyzing your looks? If they are, they have serious issues themselves. But truly, what does it matter what they think of you? It only matters what you, your loved ones, and your God think of you.

I can picture you all scratching your head. LIGMO? What could that possibly mean?

Let It Go. Move On. I don’t know how many times I’ve said this to myself since I heard it a couple of years ago. When you hold something inside, it doesn’t hurt the other person. It only hurts you. That person who embarrassed you or made fun of you in the past – how is your shyness hurting them now?


It’s not. So LIGMO.
photo by cempey courtesy of:
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ~~ Phillipians 4:13

Self-Talk: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
I’m sure you’re all familiar with the expression “self-talk”. We use it all the time. It only makes sense that when we use self-talk, we start to believe what we’re telling ourselves.
  • “I’m worthless.”
  • “No one loves me.”
  • “This dress makes me look fat.”
  • “Do I really have anything important to say?”
  • “How do I even know they really like me?”
These really are bad and ugly, aren’t they? The list could go on and on because we say dozens of things to reinforce our negative feelings. Stop. Self-talk can make or break you.

Turn it around. Find the positive. Repeat it. Believe it. You have something worthwhile to say. Your input is just as valuable as the next person’s. You are worth something. You are smart.

What Language Are You Speaking?
Become a student of body language. What does yours say about you? Do you cross your arms when you’re sitting in a group? Slouch? Sit up straight? Make eye contact? Smile?

Do you project when you speak? Do you speak with confidence? If you speak in a well-modulated confident tone, and use positive body language people are more apt to pay attention to you.

How does a shy person accomplish this? I have a relatively unconventional method, but it works for me.

The Acting Studio
A lot of actors are basically shy people.
  • Jim Carrey
  • Kim Bassinger
  • Nicole Kidman
  • Tom Hanks
The surprising list of names is endless, proving if you are one of the shy ones, you’re in extremely fine company.
Elvis. Cher. Lucille Ball….

When an actor is playing a part, they’re pretending to be someone else. I used to love acting. Whenever I played a role, I forgot my fear of speaking in front of people and became the character. It didn’t matter how many people were watching, listening, critiquing. But would it work in real life? I decided to give it a try, and to my surprise, over time, it has helped. I’m growing more comfortable with each group setting I’m in. This method does, however, come with a caveat. First, you must be confident that you know what you’re talking about. Make sure you have your facts straight. And second, while pretending to be someone else might help you speak up in a group setting, as a whole, it isn’t constructive and should be used sparingly. Once you’re able to feel comfortable, you should be yourself and no one else.

We do, after all, want to be loved and accepted (and thereby comfortable expressing ourselves) for who we are. To achieve that, we have to learn to love and accept ourselves.

Stretch Yourself
Put yourself out there. Advising the shy person to put herself in a situation where she has to talk seems as unconventional as pretending to be someone else. It’s a bit like aversion therapy. The more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll become. Start with only one thing; a Bible study group, book club, a committee, a group blog. Get comfortable with those people and you can move forward from there.

The Magic Number
I once heard someone say you have to repeat something twenty-one times before it becomes a habit. That’s twenty-one times of forcing yourself to speak up. Don’t be disappointed if you lack a surge of confidence the first time. Your mouth might be dry and your stomach might feel like a dozen butterflies breaking out of their cocoon. This is perfectly normal, but will get easier each time.

Please don’t be discouraged, and don’t give up. Remember twenty-one times. Before long you’ll be a natural.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. ~~Isaiah 41:10

Remember, you never go anywhere alone. I know it sounds trite even to some Christians, but the truth is the truth. God is always with you. And through Him we can do all things. If God is with us, how can we fail?

You can be brave because you’re loved. Take courage in that and let it help you find your confidence. You’ll be surprised where it can take you.