What Does It Take To Successfully Blend a Family?

stepfamily-living-1-508x508When engaged couples are in love, their euphoria can sometimes cloud how accurately they see other family members’ feelings about their upcoming marriage. This especially holds true when a couple is blending kids and ex-spouses from previous relationships. Divorce doesn’t separate families; it only re-arranges them. When a woman marries a man with dependent children, she is now in relationship with not only her husband, but his kids, and his ex-wife. A marriage that blends families presents two critical questions for a couple to answer:

  • Can a husband and wife, who have biological kids from previous relationships, put each other first above those children?
  • Do they have a vision, strategy, and plan to successful blend their families or are they going to just figure it out as they go?

Putting Your Spouse First

A God based marriage puts God first, spouse second, children third, and then other family and friends. When I take Christian couples through premarital coaching, one critical question I ask is whether each can put the other first above biological children.  There’s usually a lengthy pause with one or both saying they aren’t sure. I appreciate their honesty and encourage them to think about, answer, and share that answer with each other.

God designed marriage for husband and wife to become one flesh. Marriage is the foundational relationship that makes the rest of family relationships work and provides a legacy for children when they become adults. The marriage must be the priority relationship, so that the family works and dependent children understand that the world does not revolve around them which is an importance lesion to navigate adult life.

Family Vision

A vision and mission is important for any marriage, and I believe it’s even more important for couples who are blending families. Step-families have unique issues that must be managed which fully biological families don’t have to navigate. Both dependent and adult children wrestle with loyalty issues between biological and step parents. Many younger children feel that their worlds are turned upside down and they have no control over what goes on in their lives. They experience emotional overload which usually results in unexpected behaviors that draws the focus away from the marriage and naturally toward the children.

Couples who take a proactive, intentional, and inclusive approach will be more successful in integrating two families into one blended family. Blending families requires a degree of smarts, finesse, and preparation as well as respecting previously formed relationships. I suggest a couple take the time to create a vision and mission for their marriage and then develop a plan in how to integrate their families.

Next Step

Although 50% of marriages end in divorce, the statistics don’t tell the whole story. Seventy percent of second marriages end in divorce with many couples stating irreconcilable differences involving children from previous marriages as the major contributing factor.

If you’re thinking of marriage and want to get a head start on how to successfully blend your families, I suggest you reach out for premarital coaching. We can take a deep dive into how to best blend your new stepfamily.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, and financial coaching. She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossingsministry.com.

El Salvador Living Water Mission: Meet the Dillon Friends Team


September 10, 2018

Dear Friends & Family,

What I love about mission trips are the surprises and interesting twists that unfold as the team prepares for mission. We’ve had some surprising team member losses and some wildly wonderful additions over these couple months, and as always, I believe God put together the perfect team to go drill a well at a youth prison in Llobasco, Cabanas, El Salvador.

I’m a big Bob Goff fan after I read, or should I say after my husband read to me all the short stories in Love Does. I just finished reading Bob’s second book, Everybody Always, which was released earlier this year. Bob’s personal stories really challenged my thinking on how much could I love like Jesus. After you read the story about Kali, the witch doctor in Uganda, we’ll talk and see whether you agree with me.

On a lighter side, Bob states that God views the world as just one big neighborhood and that Jesus never went on mission trips. He just walked among the people and was with them. I questioned what would I choose to call our adventures to El Salvador if I wanted to be more like Jesus? After some thought I decided I wanted to call them Love & Learning Journeys. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? I like the name, because it doesn’t imply one-way service or giving. We get as much from the people as we give—it’s just different stuff. Our time spent in the villages, schools, and prisons have lots of love, lots of learnings, and it’s always a journey.

I’d like to introduce you to God’s 11 helpers who are joining me on the Dillon Love & Learning Journey. They all love God and Jesus, and I look forward in seeing how Jesus shapes them in the field.

  1. Audra Abel – wife of Will; mother; grandmother to Jessie; joined Hope City Church after we invited them to a service; speaks enough Spanish to be both dangerous and helpful; fun and outgoing; taught hygiene lessons in El Salvador (2016); LuLaRoe business woman; excited to see what this talented lady does with the second half of her life
  2. Will Abel – husband to Audra; father; works with Darin at Convergint as an account sales executive; went with us to Honduras on our first LWI well trip (2015); well was dubbed Will’s well because he didn’t leave it to do pump repair; met his future daughter-in-law (Sarah) for the first time when she and Will’s son joined last year’s trip
  3. Roberto Benavides – husband to Cristy; father to 3 boys; home country is El Salvador; joined the team to drill in 2017 but Hurricane Harvey kept him home to recover from flood damage; works in security for Chevron; excited to have him finally get back to his birth country to give back
  4. Casey DeShazo – single mom; doting grandmother; first time home buyer—perhaps she’s giving up her nomadic ways; Plexus business owner; Controller at Dowley Security, caught the LWI fever (2015)—she’s been on 10 trips since we first took her on her first trip to Honduras; witty with words—have you checked her Facebook posts
  5. Darin Dillon – husband to Sandi; father to 3 girls; not a grandfather—yet; no words can describe him; you know him well
  6. Sandi Dillon – wife to Darin; mother; not ready to be a grandmother—too busy; your mission trip leader; I’ll let you describe me; you know me well enough
  7. Todd Dina – husband; father to 4 boys; one of the original Dillon Friends Team to Honduras in 2015; wished he was living in Colorado—we can be neighbors; former colleague from TPC Group; director at IHS Market; dedicated the first well the team drilled in Honduras
  8. Charles Hearne – single guy; fitness fanatic; long-time Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) friend; second LWI trip with the Dillon Friends; awesome singer; introvert who acts like an extrovert; big smile with warm heart; senior partnership manager at Gregg Partners helping non-profits get grant money
  9. Peggy Hearne – mom to Charles; nurse; part of our first mother-son team brought on a mission trip; beautiful spirit; met her at a PEP event; in our circles more well known as “Charles’ mom”
  10. Marcus Hill – God loving man; husband and father; can pray like no other; makes awesome compression sleeves; joined team last year to drill in El Salvador; part of the small team who toured and talked with the warden in El Salvadorian prison; he can’t wait to pour into the boys in the youth prison
  11. Mark Halleck – husband; father; and grandfather; ministry over-doser—don’t worry the addiction won’t kill him; known for chasing a live deer around his living in the middle of the night; part of the first team to drill in Honduras (2015); swore to Carlos Molina he would make a trip to El Salvador and he’s fulfilling his promise this year; friend and colleague in the security industry

What a diverse team of Jesus-loving people—2 couples, 1 single man, 2 single women, and 4 married guys with wives back home holding down the home front and all from different ethnic backgrounds. We can change the world when we unite for Christ! God can use anyone who is willing to just say YES.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, and financial coaching. She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossingsministry.com.

Everybody Always: How Do I Prove Who I Am?

Bob GoffBob Goff followed up Love Does with Everybody Always which uses his own struggles, told as stories, to challenge us on whether we’re becoming Christ-like in our walk with Him. Just when I thought I was walking straighter and farther, Bob smacked me upside the head with the truth, so my eyes could see more clearly the path ahead of me. Thank you, Bob, I needed that, and as I suspect, we all do at least every now and then.

The Book

I recommend you read Everybody Always and add your own fingerprints on the cover and pages in between. Do you notice the colorful ovals decorating the cover of the book? Most of the fingerprints are from witch doctors in the Love Does School in Gulu, Uganda! I bet that has you at least mildly curious to know more. The true story will rock your world and show you what God can do when you choose to be more like Jesus. I say, “Love everybody always and go change the world.”

My Thoughts

With yellow highlighter and red pen in hand, I marked the pages and took plentiful notes in the margins. My mind filled with many questions and ideas that haven’t been fully answered or thought through. I encourage you to read the book and receive the messages God is speaking into you through the penned words of Bob Goff (2018). I pulled some of Bob’s messages and mixed them with my own thoughts as follows:

  • Many people ask themselves: Who am I? What if instead we asked ourselves: How do I prove who I am?
  • Love has been described as a feeling and a verb. What if love was a proper noun and someone we become? What if we strive to be called Love with a capital L.
  • What would it take to become Love? We would probably have to conquer a whole lot of fear. What if you weren’t afraid anymore? Be not afraid and stop letting fear call the shots.
  • When we distance ourselves from people would that be akin to Jesus turning wine back into water? Can we truly love God if we can’t love the people we’re not comfortable with?
  • Are our righteous opinions blocking people from seeing Jesus? Let the power of love do all the talking for Him.
  • Those uncomfortable people and enemies are called our teachers, and the world is just one big classroom. Are you making the most of your classroom time?
  • We become what the people closest to us say we are! Have you pinned on your hall monitor badge—casting out judgment instead of God’s love?
  • What’s the difference between a castle and a kingdom? Castles have moats to keep people out, and kingdoms have bridges to connect people. Are you building a castle or a kingdom?
  • WITH is a short word with big meaning. How much are you living out WITH? I know I’m with you, Bob!
  • People who are becoming love stop pretending who and where they are in their faith and are real about who they are right now and want to be some day.
  • “Why not just go somewhere to learn about your faith from the people you find there and be as helpful as you can be?” (p. 73)
  • Many of us pray for the green light from Jesus. Don’t be fooled. Our faith, life, and experiences are the green lights. Jesus knows we want more confirmation, but He hopes we don’t become parallelized waiting for it. Go! Stop waiting for permission. “What a shame it would be if we were waiting for God to say something while He’s been waiting on us to do something.” (p. 136)
  • People who are becoming love define success and failure not by the world’s standard but by how Jesus did. Who should you be associating with that you haven’t been? Invite strange people into your life.
  • Where you focus your vision is where you will land. Where is your focus: career, relationship, possessions? Do you need to turn your head in a different direction?
  • When you look in someone’s face do you see brokenness or opportunity?
  • “How is your life working for the people around you? Because if our lives aren’t working for the people around us, our lives aren’t working for us.” (p. 159)

Two Big Questions

Why is it so damn hard to be like Jesus? The response to that question is similar to what I say to premarital couples sitting on my couch about marriage: “It’s hard work. Anything worth having requires hard work, so why would marriage be any different?” Yes, being like Jesus is hard work, but isn’t the reward worth the struggle?

Jesus said the two greatest commandments were to (1) love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and (2) love your neighbor as yourself. I believe this journey to fulfill those commandments can start by answering for ourselves:

Who do I think Jesus is?

Who am I and how do I prove who I am?

Now who’s ready to go on a Love & Learning Journey?

References

Goff, B. (2012). Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Goff, B. (2018). Everybody Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People. Nashville, TN: Nelson Books.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, and financial coaching. She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossingsministry.com.

 

Mission Trip by What Other Name?

mission tripOne of my favorite books of all time is Love Does. I can wholeheartedly say, “I’m with you, Bob. We need to become love in a world full of setbacks and difficult people.” If you want to know whether you currently have what it takes to really love people, all you have to do is read and reflect on the first short story in Love Does. I encourage you to sit down with your spouse and friends to honestly answer whether you could have done what Bob did. I was so moved in my faith from Loves Does, I had to follow it by reading Everybody Always.

Many friends know that I combine my love of travel and love of people by planning and going on short-term mission trips. Making new friends across the globe is one of my yearly highlights. Goff (2018) encourages us to go out into the world: “Instead of saying you’re a missionary, why not go somewhere to learn about your faith from the people you find there and be as helpful as you can be?” (p. 73). The simplicity of his question resonated with me, because I always learn and receive as much as I give. Going on mission is a gift to both the sender and receiver, and God speaks to me on every trip through the people, conversations, visions, and symbols.

Bob further challenges us that if we’re going to be more like Jesus, we need to trade in words that are familiar to us and use ones that Jesus did. Jesus never went on “mission trips”—he just loved people as encountered them which led me to ask, “What would be a better substitute for the vernacular of a mission trip?”

Instead of mission, would serving, loving, caring, connecting, learning, or helping be better adjectives? Would adventure, journey, travel, voyage, passage, expedition, or crossing be a better word for trip? Although I’m partial to serving, it doesn’t capture the duality of the impact. If you ask me, I’m partial to a Love & Learning Journey. What resonates with you?

References

Goff, B. (2012). Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Goff, B. (2018). Everybody Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People. Nashville, TN: Nelson Books.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, and financial coaching. She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossingsministry.com.

 

Marriage Leadership: How Husbands Can Step into Their Leadership Role

husband leadership 2

Is there a leadership epidemic going on in American marriages? My heart breaks for the number of wives who are calling me for marriage coaching only a couple of years after saying, “I do.” They now wish they could undo it with “I don’t, at least not anymore.” In what feels like their last hope, they are reaching out for help.

Quite frankly men break out in a cold sweat when they hear, “We need to go to marriage coaching,” because they confuse it with the dreaded word “counseling.” I can’t tell you the number of reluctant men who become avid marriage coaching supporters. Professional athletes have coaches, so why shouldn’t couples have a marriage coach to work toward a best-in-class marriage.

Although it’s never just one thing that causes marriage strive, a major underpinning I see in my practice is the husband who shuns his leadership responsibilities or lacks the self-confidence to lead. Wives are not only frustrated when their husbands don’t lead, they resent having to pick up the slack and take on their husband’s leadership role. How can couples right-side poor marriage leadership?

INITIAL STEPS A COUPLE CAN TAKE TO CHANGE DIRECTION

(1) Initiate an honest conversation about leadership in the home

A wife should share with her husband what she believes her husband is doing well in leading her and the family. She should be specific in calling out measurable behaviors. Then a wife should share how her husband could lead her better. She might suggest initiating daily prayer as a couple, setting financial goals, and living on a budget that will achieve a future vision.

(2) Create a vision and mission for your marriage

Companies have visions and missions, so they know their purpose and the direction the leadership is taking the team. What’s good for business is also good for marriages. A marriage should also have a vision, mission, and a strategic plan that achieves them. Husbands gain leadership points when they initiate conversations with their wives to dream and develop a marriage vision and mission together.

(3) Rely on God’s Word for wisdom and discernment

I haven’t met a wife yet who doesn’t want a husband who relies on God and Biblical principles to lead his family in planning and decision-making. She may not always agree with his decisions, but a wife, more than not, will support her husband’s decisions, when she knows he’s not making decisions for his own selfish pleasures. Words of advice for husbands—take your family to church, join Bible studies, serve others, pray together, and embrace servant leadership principles. Your wife will love you for it!


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, and financial coaching. She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops. She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at www.shinecrossingsministry.com.