Cody Kretzschmar

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to snap some pictures of the one and only, Cody Kretzschmar. It was after this shoot I realized how incredibly blessed I am to have a way to meet other people and get to know them more both in front of and behind the lens. Photography has created a chance for me to reach out and share experiences with others I usually might not have.

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Cody Kretzschmar, Cal Baptist University graduate with a Bachelors of Environmental Science is a character to behold. His humor will keep you laughing while his vibrant personality keeps you guessing on what stories he might share with you next. With an easy going personality, he’s a natural at getting along well with various types of people. Along with this, it does help that his kind heart and curious mind to finding out more about people who come from different backgrounds than himself carries conversations further than most would dare to pursue.

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For this photoshoot, we drove around Pasadena, gazed at the beautiful homes, and decided to start shooting on one of the neighborhood streets. I can’t say the exact location of where these street shots were taken. It was a random choice. Though I will say, I was impressed and thankful for his adventurous spirit and bold attitude to try something new with me.

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For the pictures above, we headed over to Pasadena City Hall where a couple of other people were shooting as well; couple shoots, a newly wed couple, and even a quinceañera. It was here that I was beautifully surprised at the fact that Cody shared his nervousness to take pictures– he seemed to be an absolute natural while effortlessly posing for me. Seriously, Cody. You should model.

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Cody, thank you for an incredible day. You, my dear, are an absolute joy to be around. May you bless others immensely wherever God leads you, and may you always be passionate in the pursuit of what sets your heart on fire.

Ashes to Beauty

We’ve all been hurt by someone. In turn, we have also hurt others whether we intentionally did so or not. I’m not quite sure how this blog post will go or where it will end up, but I pray that God uses me to reflect His love and how great He is through what He has shown me and how He has worked in my life so far.

IMG_7901For a period in my life, I was bullied. I was cut down and broken by the words and actions of people who I believed were “friends”. I struggled with finding people who truly cared for me for some time. Now, I’m not saying this to gather pity from anyone. I am here to show you how God has worked in me and through me. Until recently, I’ve seen myself as a victim. Although I have been hurt by others through their words, I can not call myself a victim any more. I can only say I am a conqueror. Through Christ who gave me strength, I have been able to overcome my weakest moments and affirm myself and my identity in who Christ knows me as.

There are times in our lives when we do not realize how the words we speak affect others so deeply. Words have the power to hurt more than physical violence does. Words shake us to our core and challenge us to question the significance of our existence and purpose. They are replayed in our minds when we are at our weakest and sting the hundredth time we listen to them again; the pain is just as bad as hearing it said for the first time. I am not only a victim of this, but I am also a perpetrator as well. There have been people who have hurt me– yes. However, there are also those I have hurt. I caused pain to others I would never wish for them to go through now. I hurt them because I was also hurt; that is no excuse or justification for my actions. I am confident if we would put ourselves in their place, our words would be much different. Our words would be spoken with truth and grace rather than smothered in lies and deceit. Our words would build others up rather than tear them down. Our words would empower others to live their purpose rather than send them deep into hurt and depression. I can only grow and learn from the mistakes I have made in hurting others and use them to remind myself of the power of words. Of the power I have to scar someones heart or to help make their life better. When we know others are at their weakest, let us be words of encouragement. Let us be fortresses of strength they can rely upon. Let us be the lights which point them to Jesus. We don’t always know why someone does what they do, or why they react to situations and experiences in certain ways. We do not know their full past and experiences. Friends, let us love others by putting aside our pride and helping them grow in Christ rather than tearing them down.

I have been broken. I have been shattered. I have been left empty and feeling absolutely worthless… For what? For someone else to feel better about themselves? To give someone a temporary feeling of superiority in exchange for a scar of pain? No. No more of that. No more being a victim. If someone uses their words in an attempt to cut deep into your heart, remind yourself of who you are. Remind yourself of who Christ knows you and has molded you to be. You are His beloved. You are His child. You may have been broken, but you are beautiful still. You may have been hurt, but you are oh so mighty still. You have been designed with purpose. You have been made to shake the foundations of this world and use your testimony to reflect God’s perfect work in you. When you fall to the ground, feeling completely burned to the ground, never forget: your ashes are priceless when He uses them to create beauty– when He uses them to create YOU.

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If you would like to read some Bible verses relevant to this, here are the verses I was moved by to write this:
Proverbs 11:9. “With his mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor, But through knowledge the righteous will be delivered.”
Proverbs 21;23. “He who guards his mouth and his tongue, Guards his soul from troubles.”
Galatians 6:10. “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people…”
Ephesians 4:29. “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”
Philippians 2:1-18. Read all of it, which tells us how to be like Christ.

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If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to contact me. I acknowledge my writing skills aren’t the best, but I promise my interpersonal skills are better. I would love to hear your story and how God has worked in your life! If you are currently going through any of what I talked about (which I know was quite a bit), or if you would just like to talk and have someone listen to you, please reach out to me! I am here for you. I am praying for you. And I love you already, no matter what you’ve done or have gone through.

Love and sunshine– Lisa Bangean.

Choose Joy.

Can I just say how absolutely incredible it is to serve a God who will never fail? Amidst everything which could have brought me down this week (I know, it’s only Wednesday), I chose joy. Joy over anger. Joy over frustration.. Joy over giving in to those voices telling me I am not enough; I don’t have what it takes to get through it. God never promised us living life with Him would be easy, but instead that it would be worth it all. Worth the struggles. Worth the pain. Worth the heartache. Worth absolutely everything in life. Too often we perceive obstacles and trials in life from a negative perspective when the Bible instructs us to do exactly the opposite. I myself am guilty of this. James 1:2-4 states:

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Friends. Do you know what this means? Consider it JOY when you face hardships in life. The more challenges you face, the stronger and more empowered you are to face even bigger challenges in the future. Embrace the unknown; the wonderment of where you are going next in life or what you will do. Embrace the fear of uncertainty in questioning if you can get through this. Christ has already conquered the situation you are experiencing.

Choosing joy is not simple; it takes practice and a shift of perspective to break free from our inclination towards sin. When something does not go our way or tend to happen in the desired direction we wished for, naturally, we become upset. We throw a fit. We complain and focus on the negative aspects of the situation when Christ is trying to show us how beautiful the end result will be if we simply trust Him. We worry that just because it isn’t going the way we want to in the moment, it won’t turn out how we expect it to be in the end. Our worries interfere with the beautiful picture God has painted in front of us. Worry shows God that we do not trust His plan for our lives. Choosing joy amidst the chaos of confusion reveals our child-like faith that we trust Christ and what He is doing in us and through us. No matter the obstacles thrown– no matter the failures, the frustrations, the weary roads– choose joy to see the beauty of God through it all. I promise if you do this, you will find yourself more at ease with where you are and what you are doing. Every day. Choose joy. And joy, which comes from God, will pour itself into your life and the way you see everything in it.

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Choose joy.
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The simplicity of joy destroys the chaos of negativity raging inside.

A Reason to Sing

Simply put, I struggle. I know I am not alone when I say this, but too often we choose not to believe the reality that we somehow might be imperfect– that we might not have our lives put together all the time. I believe vulnerability unfolds the distorted mask we build up for the world to see and reveals the beauty of our brokenness. When you have the strength to admit your weaknesses, you acquire the power to overcome them.. But do we admit it when we are weak? Do we cry out to our Father, in our hurt and pain, desperate for need and admit defeat? No matter what we are facing in life, He always gives us a reason to sing, no matter the situation, hurt, or pain we are experiencing.

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A reason to sing.

There are times when I question my value and my worth in what I do. When failures overwhelm me, I let them define who I am. I let my potential be limited by my inability to see past my mistakes. I allow limitations to hold me back instead of using them to motivate me to grow.. This is how Satan takes a hold. His words, slivered with lies, plant themselves into the cracks of your brokeness. They grow as you water them with your doubt and insecurities of who you are in Christ. The more you disbelieve your identity in Christ, the more you let yourself believe the lies of this world. Let me tell you this: you are more than that. You are more than the sum of your past mistakes. You are a beautiful creation made new in Him. Every. Single. Day. (2 Corinthians 5:17). Completely surrender everything in your life to Him; give yourself completely to Him, and He will give you all of Himself.

When times like these happen in life, don’t give in to the lies being whispered to you. Let the artist of the galaxies use your shattered and broken pieces to create and mold a beautiful creation. A dear friend of mine introduced me to the Japanese art of “Kintsugi”, where broken ceramics are repaired with gold, silver, or platinum in order to become more beautiful than how it originally was designed. Similar to this art, I believe our God does this with us. He takes our brokenness and creates something so much more beautiful than how we first envisioned ourselves to be. Rather than letting ourselves be cast aside because we believe our value is lost, He makes us even more beautiful because of our brokenness.
It’s not about what you have done, but about what has been done for you. If you need a soundtrack to listen to when you’re struggling through life, I advise you to listen to Tenth Avenue North’s Over and Underneath album from 2008. And if you need someone to hear you out and help you through anything you’re going through, please reach out to me. Even if it’s an unspoken and you need someone to pray for you– let me love you and do that for you.

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Walk in His love.

I hope you don’t think this post is all about me, but rather I hope you see how through my struggles and the hardships I face, that God still has me in His hands– that He is working His perfect will through me. May His love and light be reflected through all I do. I pray you see how He is working in my life, no matter how weary I may be in the moment.

Beloved.

When you fall asleep, do you ever notice the sound of your heart beating? Do you hear the lub-dub-lub-dub, S1 and S2 sounds as you ponder life and the moments you’ve experienced that day?? Do you ever question why God placed you on earth, and what your purpose or reason for existence is? I can tell you for some time in my life, I struggled with knowing I’m loved.. Loved, whole heartedly, unconditionally, and forevermore by someone who died for me to know. I sought out love in a world which left me empty and broken. However, as I fall asleep at night, the very sound of my beating heart reminds me of a love greater than I will ever grasp and understand.. A love deeper than the oceans, beyond the vast greatness of the galaxies He created. As God created the world and simply said, “It is good”, He created mankind and reminded us of how much He loves and has loved us with an “everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). He created you; your quirks, your imperfections, your beautiful eyes, your kind heart, your passionate soul. He created you because He loves you. Always has. Always will. He created your inner being: the very DNA sequences which make up who you are. It’s hard to remember how much value we have in ourselves when all we see in the mirror are the flaws which we believe are flashing their red lights as us, serving as reminders of why we are not enough to be loved by another member of the human population whom we desperately desire to have a relationship with. God so desperately wants to have a relationship with us; we tend to forget that. We get carried away by working on perfecting our outer being and superficial qualities when Christ sees through it all to our very core. He sees our hearts and still longs to overfill us with His unconditional love and light. You are enough for Him. This doesn’t mean it gives you slack to not improve yourself.. Rather use it as reminder that He has loved you at your lowest, your worst part of yourself. And yet He still sees you as beautiful, worthy of being loved and used for His divine purpose. As you fall asleep tonight, just remember.. You. Are. LOVED.

Learning to embrace who I am in Christ.
May your life and talents reflect Christ and His love.
Fun fact: My hair is not this color anymore. I went back to my normal brown hair.

Winter in Romania (pt. III)

With the ending of the year and the beginning of another, new memories and experiences were made in a fashion I did not expect. For one, spending New Years away from my family and friends in California seemed “off” I suppose you can describe. Every holiday season I spent at home, we always had a party at my house. To not hold such an event made it seem as though the holiday season wasn’t quite what it was. However, with the friends my sister and I have made, we felt at home wherever we went. No matter how different and new the experiences were for me, I embraced them with an open heart and an open mind.

The first night of the new year, I spent with my sister traveling from Cluj-Napoca to Bucharest, the capital of Romania. The train ride was approximately ten hours, though it was also delayed by another two hours, bringing our total travel time to twelve hours. The first day we were in Bucharest, we were whisked away by my aunt to explore the city as she gave us her own tour.

After visiting Bucharest again for the first time in seven years, I realized how much I remembered, though also how much has also changed about it. Unfortunately, many of the buildings which brought life, history, and culture to Bucharest were torn down and demolished by the Communist Regime, only to be replaced by somber, gray buildings, built with low quality, and no character or style. The ones which remain from times before Communism are key elements to reminding the inhabitants of Bucharest of the vibrant city it once was.

From eating our way through yet another European city, our hearts and stomachs were content with life. Days were spent exploring the city and nights for socializing and seeing the beautiful lights of the night life. And of course, one can not go to Bucharest and not visit Casa Poporului, the second largest administrative building in the world, after the Pentagon.

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Inside Casa Poporului, Bucharest, Romania.
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View from a balcony atop Casa Poporului, Romania.
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Carturesti, Bucharest, Romania.

After Bucharest, my sister and I headed back to Arad for a few days where we rested and spent some time simply with each other, as the end of my trip was near. Part of me felt as though we were finally adults, living in her apartment and catching up with friends at a coffee shop, while the other part of me thought we were playing “house” the entire time. We’re real adults in a big world now.. Or at least she is. I still have some growing up to do. It’s weird to think how little children now look up to us as adults for advice and questions regarding life, because don’t adults know the answers to everything? Not quite. I still have to learn how to file my own taxes, how often I need to check the pressure in my tires, how to cook a meal without burning the food, and how I will know if I’ve met the one.. If there even is one. Though I may not be fully prepared for what life may have in store, I trust God will equip me as I venture towards His purpose for my life. This, my dear friends, is my adventure into the unknown.

From 2016 to 2017: My message to you.

Before you read this, I would like for you to note that I wrote the first half of this in my journal back in October, mid-flight from Portland to Los Angeles. I wasn’t sure if I would have shared it, but I figured someone needed to read this.. So here is my message to you:

May you live your life fearlessly. Fearless of pain, fearless of consequences (within reason), & fearless of the unknown and of comfort. Limiting oneself puts one at a disadvantage in regards to the life they were created to live. Fear keeps one from experiencing great things. Too often, we limit ourselves in order to feel comfortable when I believe we are called to be uncomfortable– to accomplish the tasks which are not easy. To endure the pain and hardships that has sweeter rewards waiting for us above. I have chosen brokenness, pain, and heartache. The path I tread breaks me to the core and shakes the foundations I was built upon. Without having stepped out of my comfort zone, challenging fear, I would not have been able to affirm who I am and where I stand in my faith. This life has broken me, molded me, shattered me, and rebuilt me from pieces time and time again. Through all I have endured, I know my pain will never be comparable to what my Jesus has suffered for me. Through it all, God is good. And He is good, through it all. Even when I am not; especially when I am not. He is good. He embodies goodness, graciousness, and mercy when I am least worthy of it. Not only does He love me when I least deserve it, but He drowns me in such love I fall in love with Him again and again.

God gives us life.. And through this life He gave us, we are to fill it with His love to others. It was out of Love we were given another chance at life, and it’s through the people He has placed in my life who still love me regardless of my selfish being, which reminds me how blessed I am. May you never take any day for granted. May you seize each day with the strong force of resources God has provided you. We know not what tomorrow holds; therefore, make today the greatest day you have ever lived.

Love always,

Lisa Bangean

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Photograph of myself taken by my sister, Damaris, in a park next to Casa Poporului, Bucharest, Romania.