Friday, August 30, 2013

New Jersey, New Home - Part 2

Well, several months ago in a part 1 post, I promised a part 2. Finally, here it is! After our summer away, we came back to Jersey and spent some time organizing and put some "finishing touches" on our place.

This spring, I added a wreath to our front door. I love it! I will be making some changes to it for fall... adding a football detail and autumn colored flowers.

This is our "everyday" / non-holiday decor on the shelf above the TV that serves as our "mantel" =)

We made some changes in our dining room display bookcase. We bought a small black bookcase, on sale, at Target and I got to work. I had fun strategically placing and displaying!

I added twine details to candles and our drink dispenser. And my dessert stand found a new home, in a more appropriate place... in the dining room! And the red tray that was just too big as a table center piece (for funcionality) also found a new home.

I am obsessed with the color pops and height.

My cookbooks look much better placed on this bookcase, as it's a little deeper.

And our patio furniture! We scored this on the end of summer clearance at Target. We've already enjoyed spending cool nights on the porch together and look forward to many more!

This was a fun, affordable addition! I painted paper mache letters from Hobby Lobby and they are now hanging above our pantry in the kitchen.

 One of my grandmother's muffin tins now adds some vintage flair to our kitchen!

As much as I love the cupcake decor Tyler got me for Christmas last year, I was starting to hate seeing it displayed as it was on the wall. It needed some grouping. It just looked out of place to me. So I found this cupcake printable on Pinterest, put it in a frame I already had, and viola! My baking corner is now updated and I like it much better!

This bookcase look familiar? It's had MANY homes. The first place I remember this bookshelf was in my NURSERY as a baby! But when we moved into this place, it served as our dining room display case. Now, it's in our guest room/office! My Southern Living, Better Homes and Gardens, and Tea Time magazines now have a display place and I love the folded quilt(s) [normally there are 2, one is currently in our car...] display idea I got from Pinterest!

We're sneaky. In the CLOSET, is our office! Before we moved, this was our plan. To make a 2 bedroom apartment function with a room that could double as an office and a guest room. This took some serious effort to organize and really, squeeze in. But we enjoy having this space to work -- having a separate "work space" allows for living space to actually feel like living space, more tranquil. 

Across the room, is the pullout couch we scored before moving from Florida on Craigslist. It's where I comfortably sit each morning, sipping coffee, and spending time in God's Word. That is, when we don't have guests ;-)

We also have a gallery wall in the room, which I am actually very impressed with!

Right across the hall from our guest room/office, is the guest bathroom. It's simple and decorated with cool colors.

In the guest bathroom, is a door. It's kind of an interesting set up. But hey, it's IN APARTMENT LAUNDRY (a luxury really in New Jersey apartments, at least the ones in our price range). But, it's quaint-- a stack able washer/dryer across from the furnace and water heater. No room for shelving. So when I stumbled upon this over the door shelf on Pinterest, I knew I'd found our storage solution!

And..... our master bedroom! Everything finally has a place in this room, so we've been able to keep it much tidier and therefore it's been more of a haven for us.

The sliding glass door lets in a glorious amount of natural light. Which is lovely. Except in the morning. So our black blackout curtains are awesome.

In the corner, next to our dresser (yes, we share a dresser.) is another small black bookcase with photos, memory boxes, journals, etc. I love the arrangement of the photos above the bookcase-- (left to right) a framed picture of us with a Bible verse on the matting, a gift I gave to Tyler when we were dating; a shadow box of wedding memorabilia; and a Norman Rockwell painting, "Wedding License" that my mom gifted us!

(Updated 3/30/2014) I recently redid this shelf from Target in our bathroom. It was super functional before, but kind of an eye sore. Now, it's pretty AND functional... a win win!

There you have it. The #StowellHome! I'm sure it'll go through many changes, as I really enjoy decorating and "nesting" but for now, I feel satisfied with everything having a place and the style our home has come together with.

"She looks well to the ways of her household..." - Proverbs 31:27

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

When You're Wrong

Last night, I finished the book A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller. And WOW. It was incredible. I have read books on prayer before... this was by FAR my favorite! Paul writes from a Biblical standpoint and incorporates his own stories and struggles to demonstrate that prayer is not rubbing God's "genie lamp." The whole concept of the book is really that prayer is not an activity we do, but it is interwoven in our lives with God. A lifestyle, if you will.

One thing that really struck me towards the end of the book was a list (pictured below) Paul had written in his prayer journal, about what God was teaching him, in regards to listening to people when they had a problem with him.

This hit me right between the eyes. How quick am I to jump to defending myself and assuming the worst about my accuser... especially when I am wrong? .......Often times, pretty quick. And I am even quicker to assume that if I bring something up to someone else, they are assuming the worst about me and gearing up to lash back.

But this list, as I read it, seemed Spirit-filled -- completely opposite of our natural reactions. Oh how I desire to respond regularly in a more godly way! I just need God's grace to persevere and be patient as I strive to grow.

What about you? As you read this list, how does your heart respond? Are you convicted about how you react? Or do you more often than not respond in the way described above? How can you grow in responding to someone when they have a problem with you? 

"Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger." - James 1:19

(Photo from A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller page 254)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Weekend Fun

When the weather is as close to perfect as it was this weekend... I wouldn't have wanted to spend it anywhere but outside!

Friday night, we enjoyed a staff team dinner out before heading to the women's soccer home opener! It was a gorgeous night to sit outside and enjoy the company of student athletes =) Oh, and Rutgers won!

Saturday, Tyler and I were determined to spend some time outdoors and enjoy not only one of the last "summer" weekends, but also the almost non-existent humidity!! After some searching, we decided to head west to Melick's Town Farm and pick flowers (more my idea, Tyler's just nice enough to go along with it). It was a unique experience and something I'd love to do again. And we're now looking forward to apple and pumpkin picking this fall!

On our way home, we stopped at Target and purchased some [long awaited] patio furniture, HALF OFF at Target! Score. The flowers found a place on our table and now brighten our home and serve as a great reminder of a wonderful day! After dinner, we spent the evening on the porch in our new chairs, in the glorious weather, devouring ice-cream and completing crossword puzzles. Yeah, we're the coolest kids on the block. 

Today, we spent the morning at church, got our grocery shopping done this afternoon, and then headed to campus to see the Rutgers volleyball scrimmage. It was fun supporting some of our AIA girls and even meeting some of the new girls on the team =) 

I love weekends like this. And with the school year picking up, so will my weekend schedule -- which I also love. It's a good balance... weekends full of sports and weekends full of adventures. All in all, I am grateful to have spent the weekend alongside my hubby and easing back into the swing of things as school starts up next week!

Friday, August 23, 2013

A True Disciple

According to Google, the definition of disciple is a personal follower of Jesus during his life, esp. one of the twelve Apostles. Here's where this can get muddy.

I meet with girls on campus, and call it "discipleship." And girls often refer to me as their discipler (although I've had girls introduce me as their life coach, which gave me a nice chuckle). Not to say the usage of those terms is incorrect, but I think to keep a clear understanding of my role as a "discipler" is vital.

As I step into the 2013-2014 school year serving on campus, I want to guard myself against the idea that I am to teach girls how to follow me. I am not worthy of following. I, in myself, have nothing to offer (as much as it kills my pride and flesh to admit that). As stated in 2 Corinthians 3:5, "Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God," all I have is from Christ. If I muddy the water by not being clear about that, and make discipleship appointments into a "follow Allison 101" time, I am doing a huge disservice to the girls I minister to and even to myself! Although, not to say I should not aim to live in a way worth imitating -- after all, Paul urges with the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 11:1) to, "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ." If at all I am hoping girls will model anything after my life, I need to be clear (with myself and them) that it's only because I am seeking to follow Christ -- therefore, He is ultimately the only Leader to follow!

It is far more important, Biblical, and lasting to teach girls how to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, how to follow Him as their Lord. 

These are the people, too, that I seek to learn from and follow... the ones who are following Christ and pointing others to Him alone.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Lesson on Racism: A Class Divided

This summer, as I've shared, I spent the month of June serving at Athletes in Action's Urban Project - Los Angeles. During my time there, we viewed a handful of documentaries and movies. Below is a clip from a documentary we watched titled A Class Divided. I find it eye opening, heart wrenching, and unfortunately true. 

Imagine if the world took part in this "experiment" to gain greater understanding on treating others as your brother? to seeing others equally? to understanding what it feels like to be discriminated against? to embracing differences rather than hating them? The world would be a different and certainly more peaceful place.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” - 1 Samuel 16:7

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Friends in the Bloggersphere

Ahhh.... The world of blogging. I'm sure there are rules, but I don't follow them (a rebel at heart I guess?). I was introduced to blogging a while back and as I began writing my own blog, I tended to keep with a theme. Over time, this morphed. No longer am I bound to a theme of "devotional style posts" but posts on [my] life-- what God is teaching me, fun things/places I experience, and even yummy recipes. I incorporate in my blog, and write about, what gives me life!

Recently, I've discovered that many of my friends also have some really fun blogs, varying in type and topic. However, they're all interesting and note worthy (but I may be a little biased). Let me introduce you to my friends' blogs::

I just recently (maybe within the last week or so) stumbled upon this gem! My friend Amy, who I met my freshman year of college, is putting her creativity up for showcase. I love her thematic and creative posts. She's also one of my favorite Pinners to follow.

Now this is a brand new, fresh off the press, blog! Caity, a recent Rutgers grad, has jumped on the blogging bandwagon. I cannot wait to see how she develops and all that she shares!

This blog is one of the more creatively written blogs I follow. Robyn, a former USF track and cross country runner, tends to share from her heart with words as art. I am constantly blown away by her unique style of writing! It's encouraging to see God continue to grow and mature her in her faith!

D'Aisha, a Rutgers fifth year senior, writes from her heart and asks the bloggersphere heart-level questions to engage her readers. I enjoy her posts because they are not only inspiring, but they have depth and purpose.

Pao, a creative soul, tends to simply blog about life (which I love)! Her posts are insightful and relatable. What I like about her posts is that since they tend to vary in topic, she keeps me on my toes!

The title of this blog is PERFECTION. Sabrina, who I met taking education classes USF, is basically a real life princess (by that I mean, she's Disney obsessed). If I could write a script for her life, she wouldn't be teaching elementary school children... 
she'd have her own cooking baking show, taped in the kitchen of a Disney World Resort. She's creative and has a sweet tooth, which automatically unites our souls. Her recipes are creative and her posts are always fun to read!

These two blogs keep me connected with sweet girls playing soccer around the globe! God gave me the opportunity to disciple these two at USF while they were playing soccer. Now, they're playing at a professional level and keeping the world informed along their journeys via their blogs!

This blog is precisely as the title states... healthy recipes from a wife and soon-to-be-Mama! Jordyn's posts are exciting and DELICIOUS. Definitely a blog which I enjoy following.

Now I find this to be a very inspirational blog. Krysta, a creative mom, supportive wife, and workout advocate continually inspires me simply by sharing about her life. Krysta and I ran (literally, ha!) in the same circle only for about a year in high school, during the one season I chose to torture myself by running cross country. Now, we're only connected via social media. But nonetheless, I am so grateful that she shares about her life, children, and experiences via her blog! Her life and family is fun to keep up with!

Surely there are other friends of mine out there with blogs... please share your link in a comment! I'd love to peek into your life via the window of your blog. 

What blogs do you enjoy following?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Spiritual Abuse: A Disturbing Reality

This summer, at Cru's National Staff Conference in Fort Collins, Colorado, I heard from the stage the phrase "spiritual abuse." Sounded to me like something that happened within cults or some other obscure religion, but surely not in the world I was a part of. But since I was not too familiar with this, I immediately searched the term on Google. And this is what I read that came up in my search. Prior to my search, I would have told you I had most likely not experienced any form of spiritual abuse, personally. As I read the list of 10 ways to spot spiritual abuse, a pit grew deep in my stomach.

I had in fact experienced all ten of these in my roughly ten years as a Christian. Sadly, I am not exaggerating. When I got over the personal pity party, God had room to soften my heart. Rather than choose to be angry and bitter [neither of which are Godly qualities, but that's often my natural bent], I am choosing to educate myself on the topic and seek much necessary, personal healing. I'm hoping to soon read [as soon as I finish other books I'm currently reading] Toxic Faith: Experiencing Healing From Painful Spiritual Abuse by Stephen Arterburn to both better understand and move towards healing and forgiveness, as well as gain wisdom on how to avoid finding myself in spiritually abusive situations again. Further more, I feel led to spread the news of the realities of spiritual abuse within churches and ministries, even amongst individual relationships.

As I now move towards further understanding, I hope to seek to avoid future spiritual abuse, being the cause of this type of abuse to others, and hopefully find myself equipped enough to walk alongside others who have been affected by it. And for that, I am grateful.

My encouragement to you... educate yourself. I am finding the more I know, the better equipped I am to take on life and all the messiness it entails! 

A horrible and shocking thing has happened in this land-- the prophets give false prophesies, and the priests rule with an iron hand. Worse yet, my people like it that way! But what will you do when the end comes? - Jeremiah 5:30-31

Additional reading on spiritual abuse:
Warning Signs of Spiritual Abuse, Part One
Warning Signs of Spiritual Abuse, Part Two
Warning Signs of Spiritual Abuse, Part Three

Friday, August 9, 2013

#StowellSummer2013 ... that's a wrap!

In a nutshell:
8 pieces of luggage
4 flights
3 states
3 timezones
11 temporary homes/beds (including 3 air mattresses, 12 pets => lots of Claritin, and minimal air conditioning)
COUNTLESS memories with family & MANY friends!

Where to start? Well, our summer truly began in mid-May and continued across the country, in Los Angeles, during the month of June. I wish I could concise all that I learned at Athletes in Action's Urban Project - Los Angeles about God, people, and the Gospel... but I truly cannot. It was an experience I will never forget and one that will forever influence how I view the world and those around me (for the better). And in the midst of all the learning and growth that was happening, for me personally, I got to spend the month ministering to and serving alongside 25 college students from across the country!

Then there's July. So Urban Project came to an end and Tyler and I were headed where we'd never been before... to explore California. In the planning stages of our summer we were faced with the dilemma to.... either fly back to NJ from LA for the roughly two weeks in between the end of Urban Project and the start of Cru's National Staff Conference that we'd be attending in Colorado OR stay on the west coast and fly to Colorado from there. As we looked closely at these options, it made much more [financial] sense for us to take advantage of already being in California and visiting the many friends (and family!) we have out there. So we did =) and it was awesome.

We visited and stayed with friends Brendan & Jenna in Mission Viejo and enjoyed quality time in the sunshine!

We then visited and stayed with friends in Huntington Beach. And during our visit we hiked along the Laguna Coast...

with Tommy!

And then we were off on our drive north, end destination: Sacramento.

Made a quick stop at the Rose Bowl

and enjoyed the lovely roses (well, I did).

To break up our drive, we stopped at (Rutgers Volleyball player) Ali's parents' beach house for the night and got to hear all about her time at AIA's Ultimate Training Camp!

As we drove along the coast, we spotted Elephant Seals!

And we were captivated by many many stunning views.

As we arrived for an evening in San Francisco, we then made yet another football stop at Candlestick Park.

Then we trekked over to the "Full House" house!

And finally made it to Fisherman's Wharf for dinner and a touristy visit.

We arrived in Sacramento and I got to visit with Stacy, a friend I met as a student on a Cru Summer Project in 2008! 

And we got to spend quality time with my aunt, uncle, and cousin-(not pictured). It had been about 10 years since we'd spent time together (or since I'd seen my aunt and cousin)! 

They took us to a gold mine...

and to see wine country!

All in all, a sweet time spent in California =) Then, we were off to Colorado for our conference. 

Our first night, we stayed with one of my college roommates and her boyfriend. It was so nice to spend some time with them!

Then we spent the next ten days on campus at Colorado State University, where we heard from our organizations leadership, worshipped with our co-laborers, and encountered God. It was a wonderful time of refreshment and connection with God and friends.

To wrap up our summer, we headed south to Florida for two weeks -- and boy was it hot! I seemed to have forgotten just how hot and HUMID it is in the summertime. Nonetheless, it was a wonderful time and it went by so fast as we visited with family, friends, former AIA students at USF, and ministry partners. 

A summer we'll surely never forget. Thank you to those of you who made it special =) We arrived back to our humble abode in New Jersey earlier this week. Since, we've gotten to catch up with a few friends here, kept the washer and dryer BUSY, and successfully unpacked all eight pieces of luggage! We're grateful to be back and eager to start the 2013-2014 school year with Athletes in Action at Rutgers!!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Iced-Coffee Success

This summer I ran on the strength of God and caffeine. And in my opinion, there is nothing like an iced-coffee in the summertime! During my time in Los Angeles in June, I thoroughly enjoyed Brooklyn Water Bagels' iced-coffee.... with coffee ice cubes (genius I tell ya)! But when we returned to New Jersey this week, it was my mission to enjoy iced-coffee at home. And at my first attempt, I reached near perfection with this:

I began by brewing a full, strong pot of Archer Farms Carmel Macchiato coffee. While still hot, I added desired amount of sugar (or sweetener of choice) and a heaping spoonful of Aldi's carmel topping, stirring until dissolved. I let it cool for a bit before pouring into a pitcher and storing it in the fridge. Now, it's ready to enjoy - poured over ice and I've been adding milk to each individual serving.

I must say, I've made iced-coffee at home many times before this and I don't think I'll deter from this method. It's delicious, perfect strength, and this particular batch has a decedent flavor! In the future, I will likely be making my own coffee ice cubes, because Brooklyn Water Bagels method is pure brilliance. As my husband watched me fill the ice cube tray with water last night he suggested I fill them with coffee for my iced-coffee. A gem he is, I mean really.