Dog Rescue: A Passionate Tale about Tails

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Alex and Pepper

Shine Ministry Spotlight: Step into the World of Rescue with Alex Davis


Spotlight gives ministries and volunteers the opportunity to share their passion to connect with others who may want to contribute or partner with their mission.


Does your heart ache when you see the photos of sad dog faces, some of whom are bruised, battered, and starved? Have you wondered how you could possibly help those poor souls who have no voice? You can. Learn more about the rescue world and how you can make a difference in the lives of both rescuers and their forever families—one foster, one adoption at a time.

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You’ve probably heard the horror stories of raids on puppy mills, properties of pet hoarders, and dog fighting rings. Maybe you’ve encountered a hungry dog rummaging through garbage on the side of the road. Texas and many southern state shelters are full of unwanted animals who’ve grown up on the streets, were dumped on the side of the road, or owner-surrendered to a local high-kill shelter. The euthanasia list is a continuous tally of dogs who are days, hours, and minutes from their last breath. Yes, the stories are sad, but there is hope for many of these dogs. Just a few states away, in Colorado the local shelters and Human Societies are relatively empty with many families wanting to adopt a life-long companion.

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States such as Texas and New Mexico have supply and Colorado has demand—a perfect solution. But how do we get these dogs to their forever families? The heroes are the non-profit rescues and their dedicated volunteers who step in to fill this void. Their sacrificial stories are amazing—joyful, heart-wrenching, tiresome, and heart-warming. One young woman’s story will both inspire you and leave you feeling exhausted. My prayer is that Alex’s story will move you to take just one small step deeper into the rescue world where your efforts will be personally rewarding.

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Alex’s Story

When Alex was 6 years old, her mother asked her, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” She replied, “I want to be a seal trainer, have 10 dogs, 10 cats, and 10 kids.” In middle school, Alex slept in the garage for a week on a blow-up mattress with 2 stray dogs she nick-named Scooby and Spice. You could say she was babysitting those two until she could find their owners. In high school, Alex volunteered at the Houston SPCA. Now at 25, Alex is a certified veterinary technician with 3 dogs and 1 cat. She’s fostered over 200 dogs in nearly 4 years and directly touched the lives of thousands of rescue animals. What does the future hold for Alex? Who knows, but it may be too small to fit in those 10 kids.

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Alex and Scooby [2004]

She adopted her first dog in 2013, followed by a second and a cat in 2014. Based on a New Year’s resolution, in January 2016 she submitted her foster application to New Hope Cattle Dog Rescue (NHCDR) and got her first heeler, Juno, that March. Over 50% of first-time fosters adopt their rescue, and Alex almost became one of those statistics. She refused to become a “foster failure” and pushed through her tears to let Juno go to another family, so she could once again foster and give more dogs a chance at a forever home.

Today she searches social media sites for dogs to tag, runs short- and long-haul transports, provides basic medical care, screens adopters, does adopter home checks, evaluate fosters, helps with behavioral training, attends and sets up adoption events, serves on the Board of Directors of NHCDR, and works collaboratively with many other rescue non-profits.

How Does Rescue Start?

As Alex became more entrenched into the rescue world, she became aware first-hand of the struggle in springing a dog out of so-called Texas prison. There are multiple hands that touch a dog’s life from when it’s pulled off the Texas streets or shelter to its forever destination in the home of a Colorado family. The most critical need in the system is available foster homes—especially in Texas where the process begins.

SpotRescue starts when someone posts on social media, commonly Facebook, a dog found dumped on the streets or when volunteers post photos/video of available shelter dogs. Yes, there are volunteers who walk the Texas shelter aisles—whose sole purpose is to put those adoptable dog faces behind wire cages on social media, so someone’s heart can be tugged. A Colorado rescue can commit to take the dog but will only do so if it has a short-term foster in the shelter area that can hold the dog for about 1-3 weeks while out-of-state transport can be arranged and the minimum vetting completed to take the dog across state lines.

Two PittiesShelters will routinely allow registered 501c3 rescues to pull dogs for free by submitting their nonprofit incorporation papers or completing shelter forms. Ideally, the local foster will provide a home environment, learn of the dog’s behaviors and personality, take it to a vet to secure its health certificate and vaccinations (at rescue expense), and ensure it makes its transport to Colorado when space has been secured.

SprinklesColorado volunteers will pick up the dogs off transport and typically take them to their next foster home until they are adopted. Fosters take daily care of the dogs, which includes helping with training (crate, potty, behavior, and basic commands). Dogs are also spayed and neutered before their adoption. On average fosters give a loving home to these rescue dogs for a couple days to a couple weeks and commit to taking them to scheduled adoption events, vet appointments, and meet-and-greets with potential adopters.

OxAdoptable dogs are posted on the rescue’s website, social media pages, and available at the adoption events. Potential adopters must fill out an application and are screened, which includes home and vet (if family own other pets) checks. The adopting family must typically agree that the dog spend most of its time indoors. Although each rescue has its own rules, most have a trial adoption period to make sure the fit is right. At any time if the family can no longer care for the dog, the contract stipulates it must be returned to the rescue. This process delivers a high permanent adoption rate.

The Price to Adopt

Most rescues require a $250 – $350 adoption fee, which barely covers the cost of vetting (vaccines, heartworm test, deworming, spay/neuter, etc.) and transporting across state lines. Behavioral training, food, supplies, and special medical care (orthopedic surgeries, Distemper, Parvo, etc.) are typically covered by donations—not the adoption fees.

OakMany people don’t understand why the adoption fees are so high for unwanted rescue animals. The truth is that rescues want to make sure they put a happy and healthy dog in the home of its forever family. With that end goal, rescues are just covering their basic costs in the adoption fees.

Fostering Makes You a Rescue’s Hero

Rescues are looking for fosters with big hearts. There aren’t any special requirements to be a foster other than a willingness to open your home and show patience as a dog acclimates to its new trauma-free environment. As Alex says, “If you can love a dog, have patience, and be understanding, you can be a good foster.”

IMG_6318Fosters may find they work on crate and potty training as the history of the dog is mostly unknown. If the foster/dog fit is too strained, rescues will do their best to find another foster home. Fosters must realize rescue organizations run solely on volunteers, so nothing happens overnight.

Many families help the system by joining the ranks of relief fosters—helping long-term fosters who need to go out of town for a couple days or week. Rescues are always happy to have fosters who can relieve other fosters on a case-by-case choice which keeps the dog in a home environment and saves the kenneling of $15 to $40 per night.

Rescue Comes with a Personal Price

How does a young rescuer fit in the demands of rescue while earning a living? Not very well. Rescuers like Alex pay a heavy price to rehome these dogs. She’s lost personal relationships, forgone work hours, and self-funded expenses (gasoline and wear and tear on her personal vehicle) from her own meager vet technician salary of $25,000 per year.

IMG_6224Although Alex has gained an incredible support network of friends who have a common passion and knows the pure joy of connecting the family and rescue, the price has been expensive in both money and untold hours in the field.

How many hours does she dedicate to these dogs? On average Alex spends 4 hours a day on social media—tagging shelter dogs, responding to texts and calls of dogs in need, arranging transport, answering foster questions, etc. Because of her reputation in the rescue world, she routinely gets calls from locals for help with a dog they found abandoned or a neighbor who wants to get rid of a dog.

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Every 3 weeks she donates one of her days off for a 15-hour transport run. After cleaning crates and loading the van, she may travel to New Mexico to pick up 20 dogs and drive them up to Denver. There are 1-2 adoption events per month which usually involves 5-6 hours of her time for travel, setup, and tear down. None of this includes her time for taking dogs for vetting, supplies to fosters, and meet-and-greets with potential adopters. Oh, and she cares for upwards of 5 rescues in her own home.

Alex’s Future

Alex has a heart for the working dogs (cattle dog/heeler) and bullies, because people misunderstand these breeds. Many adopters don’t realize the energy level of working dogs who require lots of exercise or a “job”—otherwise, they can get destructive. She favors pit-bull mixes because the press has turned the American Pit Bull Terrier, once referred to as the loyal American family dog, into a villain.

DeliahToday Alex is serves NHCDR, breed specific for heeler mixes, and she tags pitties with From Forgotten to Forever Rescue (FFTF). She has a dream to own property to build kennels as backup to her own foster-home rescue. Her passion is to save death row dogs—those minutes from euthanasia—victims of shelter overcrowding. Alex is truly the champion of the underdog of underdogs.

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A Simple Request

Please be a foster. Why? Because fostering adds so much joy to your life as you see these dogs’ personalities come to life. You can be a change agent who can help a dog go from being traumatized to thriving.

DiamondIf you have a dog or two, the rescue will require that your pets are spayed or neutered. No one wants an oops! If you’ve ever thought of fostering, do it. The upside is how fulfilled you’ll feel in helping an underdog, and the only downside may be some adjustment in a temporary living situation.

You Can Help in Other Impactful Ways

The innocent victims are the dogs, and the heroes are those volunteering in the rescue world. You too can be a hero, and there’s many ways to help:

  • Reach out to a local rescue and offer to be a short-term foster.
  • Offer to be a substitute foster for a long-term foster going on vacation
  • Offer to transport dogs from foster to transport
  • Donate money and/or supplies to a local rescue
  • Help a rescuer with expenses for gas, oil/filter changes, gift cards for services, or money to help defray their own out-of-pocket expenses

Any amount helps. If you’d like to learn more about rescue, send a word of thanks, or gift a woman who cares too much, you can reach Alex at alex.davis11_94@yahoo.com  or 281.881.1826.

Ruby


About the Author: Sandra Dillon who has a heart for ministry and servant leadership and can be found in the mission field coaching on relationships and marriage strengthening, drilling water wells, installing filtration systems, and teaching hygiene. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

Invest in a Couple’s Marriage and Change a Family’s Future

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James Odhiambo Ageng’a and Faith Chege


Our Ask

If you live in the United States, you’re blessed to have ready access to information and services to help you with your relationship whether dating, engaged, or married. Self-help is only an Amazon book order away, a call to your Employer Assistance Program (EAP), or a conversation with your pastor. Most people in countries across the globe don’t have access to relationship help that can radically improve their marriage and change the course of their family legacy.

I’m personally asking you to help another couple, who wants to invest in their marriage, by simply funding part or all of their materials and/or the trip expenses for Darin and me to travel to Kenya and Tanzania, where we will hold several marriage conferences and train-the-trainer workshops. Will you help us achieve a big vision to help others who are willing to help themselves?

“We’re not meant to walk alone into our vision. As long as we are connected to the source and others, God uses people to do God’s work.”

– Sandra Dillon


The Big Vision: To Put Marriage Tools in the Hands of Every Couple

Developmental mission is the name of the game and sustainability is its goal. Back in 2013, God called Darin and me into the mission field to do long-term, partnership changing work to improve communities across the globe, while locally investing in marriages. These two parallel paths have now converged into the vision God placed on our hearts for 2020: go to East Africa and help marriages and families through the power of relationship coaching. Let local marriage leaders take these tools and shape them for their community.

Our big vision is for everyone to have access to relationship coaching—every couple who is married, engaged, and dating as well as those about to date. We want everyone to be empowered with self-awareness, perspective, and tools, so they can choose to create a successful relationship. Aren’t you excited to be a part of this vision?

“One of life’s greatest rewards is knowing you helped change someone’s life for the better.”

– Sandra Dillon


The First Big Trip

Our big step into this big vision is to fly to Nairobi, Kenya, and put on several conferences on marriage strengthening and host train-the-trainer sessions. We will return to the first church we visited in October 2013, now called International Christian Center Woodlands Rongai (www.facebook.com/iccrongaicampus) where we met Faith who was the music leader for Woodlands Church Nairobi. Recently, I had the privilege of taking Faith Chege and James Ageng’a through premarital coaching via video calling. James belongs to Life Changing Sanctuary (www.facebook.com/lifechangingsanctuary). Their churches are welcoming us in 2020 with open arms.

IMG_5760Prior to departure, James and Faith will become SYMBIS (Save-Your-Marriage-Before-It-Starts) trainers by completing their online training program. They will identify couples who will be part of the train-the-trainer program and also take the SYMBIS survey prior to our arrival. They will benefit from SYMBIS and possibly be the next generation of marriage mentors.

The conference will focus on God’s laws of marriage and marriage mission/vision. The train-the-trainer program will take couples through their own couple SYMBIS report and cover finances, love, attitudes, sex, parenting, blending families, spirituality, goals, communication, conflict resolution, etc. We will answer questions and enhance their training with supplemental materials and situational stories. Darin and I will empower them and pass the torch to James and Faith as the future local SYMBIS leaders, who will then put reports into the hands of mentors and couples across their communities.

Then we are off to Tanzania with Vine & Branches and more marriage coaching….

We need financial support for training and the on-going mentoring program. SYMBIS survey prices, which seem reasonable in U.S. terms, can be astronomical for a couple who makes only $150 per month. Facilitator training is $200, and the surveys are $35 per couple. We’re creating a World Changers on Mission Fund, and asking U.S. friends, family, and supporters to contribute toward couples’ SYMBIS reports, relationship books for couples and African church libraries, and expenses to cover conferences and train-the-trainer sessions.

“It’s not enough to say you’re not part of the problem. Will you commit to be part of the solution?”

– Sandra Dillon

Our goal is to raise an initial $15,000 to start the “good works”. The first big step is to make a 2-week trip that takes us from Nairobi, Kenya, to Dar es Salaam and Mbeya, Tanzania. We dream of going to Uganda in 2021, because we already have pastors and community leaders inviting us to bring marriage strengthening to their communities.


How You Can Help

A marriage has the power to make you miserable (when bad) and fulfilled (when good). Please invest in a married or engaged couple by donating to our big vision. When you invest in a couple, you not only help them, but you also play a role in developing a healthy family legacy and to break generational curses. Your investment pays dividends for generations and helps communities thrive. Here’s no greater return on investment than to see a person or family flourish. When spouses and families are healthy, they can then go and be servant leaders.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

– Margaret Mead

No amount is too small. You can give through several options:

  1. Donate via PayPal using email: worldchangersonmission@gmail.com. Sandra Dillon is the name associated with the account.
  2. Donate via Zell to shinecrossings@gmail.com.
  3. Venmo money to Sandra-Dillon-4
  4. Mail check made out to Shine Crossings. Text me and I will provide a mailing address.

World Changers on Mission is not yet a 501c3, so all donations are a true gift. We will honor our donors’ gifts with accountability and transparency as if they are a donation. In all cases, please make a note for any restrictions on this initiative which may include:

  1. Unrestricted: use wherever needed most
  2. Use for couples’ surveys, training, and materials
  3. Use to defer expenses for your trip such as airfare, hotel, security, and in-country transportation

All donations will be acknowledged, and if you provide your email, you will be included on blogs, news, and updates so you can see the workings of your investment. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to Sandra Dillon at 281.793.3741 or worldchangersonmission@gmail.com

If financial giving is not a possibility for you, we would ask that you share this post with your friends, family, and network.


Your Request

If you know of an organization in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, who wants to connect with World Changers on Mission, please email their name, contact, and a bit of history. We’d love to reach out to them for a conversation and see how we might connect with them and include them on a future trip.


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Your Scars: Tattoos of Victory or Reminders of Your Pain?

thought-catalog-o38AW4xnwEo-unsplashI had a conversation with a woman who was a victim of childhood abuse by a lesbian aunt. The abuse started when she was 10 years old and under the ruse of having to treat a medical condition, because she had started puberty so young. Only a handful of people knew of her abuse in her adult years, yet she struggled with many unresolved feelings and unanswered questions because of her reluctance to share her story. Many will read this and self-identify. I know, because you share your stories with me.

Sexual predators are commonly family members or close friends of the family, who pray on their victims’ innocence and ignorance. In this woman’s case, what started out as supposed “medical treatment”, escalated into full on sexual encounters until her mid-teens. Now, she feels conflicted in her feelings of guilt and what she had contributed to the abuse, especially once she started to figure out what was happening wasn’t “right”. Was she at fault for not stopping it? Should she have told someone to make it stop? Who else would be abused by this aunt?

Of course, my response: “You are absolutely not responsible in any way, shape or form for what happened to you. You were an innocent child who was robbed of her innocence. Your aunt opened up the Pandora’s box of your sexuality. She stole from you what was not hers to take.” Her story reminded me of all the other childhood sex abuse stories shared with me over the years, including girls molested by piano teachers and raped by stepfathers. If you can think it, it’s happened to some innocent child. Satan is the ruler of the earthly world, and unfortunately, bad things happen to bad and good people.

“Without suffering, there is no growth, and without growth, there is no life.”

Sandra Dillon

No one is immune. No one gets a pain-free life. Pain just comes in different packages. Sometimes our pain comes from choices we make, and at times, we are the victim of fallout from other people’s sinful decisions. If pain and suffering are inevitable, the bigger question is: what are you going to do with your pain? Are you going to make lemonade from lemons or are you going to wallow in the misery? Will you take what you have experienced and make it a platform or a service ministry?

I compare pain and suffering to a wound. Imagine you have a big slash on your forearm which has healed over with a thick scar. When you look down at your scar every day, what are you going to say to yourself? Will you relive that event and count your blessings that you survived that injury and are living another day, or are you going to look at that scar and constantly relive the pain of the past? Your power comes from your choices.

My prayer for people who are suffering is that they will choose a healthy perspective—a survival perspective that moves into a thriving life. Those bad experiences: they’re your victory tattoos. You’re no longer a victim but a victor.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in premarital/marriage, finances, ministry, and leadership. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

Married Couples: Have You Had the Sex Talk Lately?

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What did you “feel” when you read Married Couples: Have You Had the Sex Talk Lately? Just the whisper of the 3-letter word SEX has the power to evoke fear and apprehension, ignite passion, nibble away at self-esteem, bring memories alive, and create fantasies—basically elicit a strong emotional and perhaps physical response. The long-running rumor mill claimed that men thought about sex every 7 seconds. Untrue, but studies do show that the average man thinks about sex 19 times a day—more often than food and sleep. Women, on the other hand, think of sex 10 times per day.  Statistics show that sex undoubtedly is an integral part of our human thoughts and lives.

When it comes to sex, there’s no one size that fits all. But if no one’s talking about sex, no one knows what fits. — Sandra Dillon

Sex: The Hot Topic

Why are we consumed with thoughts of sex, and why is it such a hot topic conjuring both pleasure and conflict? Without a doubt, we are sexual beings, and sex is one of life’s greatest physical pleasures. When God created marriage, he also created sex for pleasure, bonding, and procreation. He created sex to be enjoyable; otherwise, the human race would be in jeopardy of extinction.

Sex is one of God’s most beautiful gifts to married couples to connect and celebrate their relationship as two become one.

As a Christian Marriage Coach, I’ve seen what God makes for good within the marriage bed, Satan twists, perverts, and destroys. Some married couples have difficulty just talking about sex, even those who rate their sex life as satisfactory. When sex involves secrets or avoids difficult conversations, there’s trouble in Eden.

Based on my years spent coaching premarital and married couples on my couch, I will share some perspectives on sex that will hopefully help you understand the magnitude of the sexual dysfunction that plagues today’s relationships and offer encouragement for a more fulfilling sex life—the sex life that God meant all of us to have within marriage.

Pornography: The Sex-pectations Marriage Killer

Pornography and the media’s shaping of sexual culture have undermined sex lives, destroyed marriages, and stolen more self-esteem as often as a malignant cancer kills. History has shown a propensity to dismiss women’s sexual needs, objectify them, and exploit them through social media, advertising, and sex-trafficking. Even if a wife hasn’t personally experienced sexual abuse, she may be feel the effects of pornography weighing upon her sex life based on her husband’s relationship with it.

Although the fastest growing segment of porno addiction involves women, men still typically wrestle more with pornography based on being more visually stimulated by images than women. Pornography bombards men with messages that keep him completely ignorant on the differences in how men and women typically experience sexual pleasure.

Pornography paints this glorious picture of women enjoying sex as much as the man with thrust upon thrust. Rarely would a woman agree that this picture reflects her version of a satisfying sexual encounter. Women are more emotionally stimulated and respond to their husbands when he initiates behaviors that please her. Perhaps she needs a half-hour of intimate conversation or help cleaning up in the kitchen after dinner before heading to bedroom.

Men need direct physical touching, where women need non-sexual touching throughout the day and usually some soft touches during sex. Pornography would have you believe that normal is several minutes of pumping and a woman orgasms in delight. False. Most women do not orgasm through penile penetration. Most women climax through external stimulation of their clitoris. Men typically need to achieve orgasm for them to be satisfied; whereas, women don’t necessarily need a climax to feel the same. Without this knowledge, pornography—as teacher—paints a distorted picture of normalcy for the marriage bed.

Anger, Trust Wounds, and Stress – The Emotional Sex Killers

Sex acts like a thermometer in the marriage by measuring its temperature. Anger and hurt dramatically cool the mutual desire for sex. Unresolved anger toward a spouse is a dangerous sex killer, because it doesn’t allow the expression of love. Although men can typically have sex with their wife when angry, they typically do so as a way to create connection. Most women link sex and love so intimately that they cannot separate the two.  When a woman doesn’t feel love from her husband, she typically turns away or shuts down.

Pornography also creates trust wounds and escalates self-doubts. A wife may say, “If my husband really loved and desired me, he wouldn’t need to look at pornography.” Her pain is real, yet she may not realize that pornography is not her fault. Each spouse bears the responsibility of his or her own choices. What might have started out as innocent fun can turn into a monster that devours all marriage trust.

Unfortunately, the deep abyss of pornography eventually forces people to extremes in order to achieve the same high.  Just as drug addicts need more of the same or more powerful drugs, sex addicts need more perverse images such as naked child and sex. The brutal downside of pornography is the eventual inability to be stimulated and achieve orgasm with a real person.

Stress from the over-scheduled life is a more socially acceptable addiction that saps bedroom energy. Marriage sex usually moves to the back burner to make room for work, errands, cleaning, kids’ extracurricular activities, shopping, birthday celebrations, poker night, and book club to name just a few. One should not put off to tomorrow what one should be doing today—having sex with his or her spouse. We should re-schedule these stressors and prioritize sex.

Why should we make sex a priority? Because sexual intimacy is the glue that keeps a couple connected. Nothing has the potential to make us as happy or as miserable as the condition of our marriage. Don’t let one more family activity or work event interfere with your sex. A happy marriage is certainly not the sole outcome of happy sex and vise versa, but one cannot ignore one without it influencing the other.

What Does It Take to Have a Great Sex Life?

The definition and frequency of great sex are a reflection of the mutual appetites of husband and wife. Unless Satan has polluted the marriage bed or twisted the thoughts of a spouse in some way, most couples would say they have satisfying sex lives. Even physically disabled couples find a way to connect on their own terms. One important ingredient for great sex is open communication about needs and desires—asking for what you want—in a positive way. We each should know the pleasure points of our bodies, and it’s the spouse’s responsibility to communicate to his or her partner what feels good.

Women tend to be more reserved in asking for what they want in the bedroom. The truth is that most men want to deeply please their wives. When wives don’t speak up, husbands try their best to do what they think will, which leads to mixed results. Please wives—don’t ever fake an orgasm. When you fake an orgasm you tell your husband that what he did was good, and you’ll get more of the same.

kaitlyn-baker-uMSS5_jNc98-unsplashAnd while you’re talking about sex, have fun. Some spouses only feel comfortable with the missionary style, because they believe anything else is dirty. Have you read the book of Song of Solomon? If not, I suggest you read it once, if not twice. Unless its Biblically forbidden, what goes on between two consenting spouses is fair game. Act out fun fantasies, oral sex, different positions, and throw in some sex toys if interested. Bring energy into the marital bed.

Age can bring its challenges. Men may have difficulty getting an erection and lower production of estrogen as a woman enters menopause reduces her vaginal elasticity and lubrication. Penile sex can become painful for a women. Don’t shut down the marital sex because of these physical limitations. Find a work around. Get creative in ways that keep you physically connected and mutually satisfied. Your attitude, sexual sensitivity, and understanding in the bedroom will speak volumes to your partner.

Wrapping Up the Sex Talk

Unresolved sexual and financial disagreements can lead one spouse to file for divorce, and yet these are two topics on which most couples have difficulty communicating and resolving conflict. I encourage you to initiate a heart-felt conversation with your spouse about your sex life.

You may think your sex life is terrific and you know all this stuff.  If so, consider yourself fortunate and still ask, “How are we doing in the bedroom? Is there anything I could be doing more or less of?” It never hurts to take the temperature of your sex life every once in a while.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in premarital/marriage, finances, ministry, and leadership. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves and to have thriving relationships. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

Will You Give Dogs and Cats a Second Chance at a Better Life?

Shine Ministry Spotlight: Jim Wells County Pets Alive with Bekah Chiarello


Spotlight gives ministries the opportunity to share their passion to connect with others who may want to contribute or partner with their mission.


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Are you one to root for the underdog? Does your heart hurt when you see helpless animals suffering through no fault of their own? Do you feel overwhelmed with emotion over cases of animal neglect and abuse? Are you parallelized in taking the first step, because the issue is so big you don’t know where to start? You can now choose to have a part in creating a story that helps not only an underdog but also the volunteers who dedicate themselves 24/7 to help those animals.

47495907_1967948259941720_430845083042971648_nMargaret Mead made famous the saying, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Read Bekah’s story in bringing alive her non-profit to help those who have no voice. Perhaps you’ll write yourself into the story and provide much needed resources to continue the work of making a difference by helping one dog or cat.

Who is Jim Wells County Pets Alive?

Jim Wells County Pets Alive (JWCPA) is a small non-profit in Sandia, Texas, which is about an hour and a half drive west of Corpus Christi. They are giving a second chance at life to unwanted dogs and cats. With a small network of volunteers who help with in-home fostering, animal transport, networking, and social media sharing, JWCPA has an ambitious mission to change the rescue landscape in this rural area. Bekah, the non-profit’s founder, has a dream to (1) develop a robust spay/neuter program, (2) ensure successful long-term adoption for shelter pets, (3) educate government locals and residents of county animal ordinances, and (4) launch an owner-pet retention program.

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How Did Jim Wells County Pets Alive Get Started?

Bekah, currently a local animal control officer, has always had a heart for animals. Referring to herself as more a cat person, she fondly remembers when Lizzy would wait for her to get off the bus, so they could walk home together after school. In high school, Bekah worked in a vet clinic where she learned how to treat dogs and cats under a veterinarian’s care. She eventually graduated college with a B.S in biology, but quickly determined that her call was to help the animals versus studying them. She also volunteered on weekends at local shelters, transporting over 400 animals to Corpus for low-cost spay/neuter and helping with hoarder houses. Eventually, she purchased a 2.5-acre property that gave her more room to foster between 5 to 10 dogs at any given time, using a spare bedroom to segregate the sick or too young.

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As a rural animal control officer, she now helps local law enforcement uphold protection ordinances that most residents and even some government entities are not aware of. Her partner stays home to work directly with the rescue and support the daily needs of their fosters and own pets. After dedicating 20 to 40 hours per week to rescue efforts, in 2017, Bekah created a 501(c)3 with the hope that people would be led to donate to her mission.

Where is Jim Wells County Pets Alive Going?

Bekah’s vision for the non-profit is to empower the local people to be part of real solutions. She wants to turn lack luster animal control into activism in the shelter environment.  What might that look like?  Jim Wells has started a research project to bring the intel that quantifies the magnitude of this problem, so people and non-profit grant monies can help solve the problem.

Did you know that in big cities, about 10% of the adopted animals are not spayed/neutered, but in rural areas, where shelters don’t have financial support, 95% of dogs and cats are adopted out unspayed? What happens next? Most female animals are returned to the shelter just days before they are to give birth, because owners don’t want to deal with a litter. There is also a lack of basic vaccinations and medical care. Families routinely return pets to the shelter, because they can’t afford medical treatment when these adopted animals get sick.

IMG_20171208_080355Unlike major cities that have policies and funding to spay and neuter pets before adoption, the rural shelters barely have space to kennel stray or surrendered animals. If funds for spaying and basic medical care were available, the rural shelters could change the landscape for local pets. Basic animal education and behavioral training are a few solutions that can answer the call as well as animal networking across the country to place dogs and cats into forever homes.

Dixie’s Story

Dixie was born in late January 2019 with three brothers. The mother was hit by a car, and the four siblings were kept in a 10 ft. by 5 ft. outdoor kennel. Emaciated and full of worms, Bekah would routinely visit the property and beg the owner to give up the puppies, so she could rehome them. He released the brothers but kept the female for his daughter. Bekah continued to return to check on Dixie. Once Bekah found the cage flooded, and Dixie was only able to lay down in standing water. Finally, the man relented and released Dixie to Bekah. Melissa, a foster volunteer, nursed Dixie back to health. Bekah connected with New Hope Cattle Dog Rescue, who was willingly to transport Dixie to Colorado and find her a forever home.

57964050_2152639284805949_6067580997199724544_nDixie was to have a one-night Houston hotel stay at the Dillon home before catching transport to Colorado. We fell in love with this quirky girl who eats anything including grass, bark, pinecones, pine needles, and twigs. We attribute her behavior to being forced to forage for food. Dixie has a second chance at a new and better life, because of Bekah and the Jim Wells County Pets Alive team.

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You Can Help Be Part of the Solution

The innocent victims are the dogs and cats who need your help. Would you be able to contribute something to Bekah and her nonprofit to help change the lives of these furbabies? Your money goes directly to help the animals with spay/neuter, medical care and supplies, and transportation costs for their welfare of the animals. Any amount helps, even $5. There are several ways you can give and make a difference:

You can also LIKE their Facebook page and spread the word. Your LIKE may connect someone who will be moved and want to be part of writing a new chapter in this story.

IMG_20190806_101103If you have questions, Bekah would love to hear from you. She is a woman on a mission to change the world one dog and one cat at a time. You can reach Bekah at jimwellscountypetsalive@yahoo.com or 361.673.3909.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon who has a heart for ministry and servant leadership and can be found in the mission field coaching on relationships and marriage strengthening, drilling water wells, installing filtration systems, and teaching hygiene. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

How to Change the Power Struggle If You Feel Like a Dominated Husband

ben-white-YS3Q5vroxtg-unsplashAs a premarital and marriage coach, I often hear boyfriends and husbands say, “She’s wants to control everything in our relationship,” “If I don’t do it her way or when, she gets mad at me and just does it,” and “I’ve given up trying. I let her tell me what to do and avoid the fight.” As a man, boyfriend, or husband, do any of these statements ring true in your relationship or have you distanced yourself from relationships to avoid the drama?

If you said yes to either of the above two questions, you have a fair amount of male company. Unfortunately, there’s a power struggle going on in a large percentage of the marriage relationships and neither spouse is happy, leaving a trail of resentment that leads husbands to feel dominated by their wives and for wives to feel like they are raising an adult child.

“When husbands fail to lead, wives will step in, and husbands will then feel dominated. It’s an unhappy cycle that needs an intervention.” – Sandra Dillon

You might wonder “what’s going on” and “how did we get here” when just a few months or years ago the two of you got along so well. In today’s culture, family dynamics and structure have played a role in suppressing male leadership by not allowing boys to test and grow their leadership skills during the normal stages of child development. Leadership is a critical competency a boy must master in order to lead his wife and family. It’s not uncommon for poor leaders to emerge from intact families with helicopter parents who couldn’t tolerate their children to fail. Boys never learned leadership by suffering and working through failure to achieve success.

“If marriages and families are to thrive, husbands have to step up their leadership and women have to let go of their fear of family failure.” – Sandra Dillon

Divorce and its resulting family structure have also had an influence on the adult power struggle. Many boys and girls grow up in homes where mom is the head of household and primary parent—essentially the leader of the family. Children tend to carry into adulthood the family structure and dynamics they were raised under.

Of the couples I’ve seen who struggle with power issues, none have had an intentional conversion about family leadership. Questions I often ask couples to answer include:

  • What behaviors and attitudes does a husband demonstrate who is leading his wife and family well? And for a father who is leading his children well?
  • What behaviors and attitudes does a woman demonstrate who is being a Godly wife? And for a Godly mother who is raising her children?

If you don’t believe in God, take out the reference to God and replace it with “best in class”.  Spouses should answer these questions from their perspective and then share with their partner. Discuss where you have similarities and differences. It’s important to agree on common ground.

Aligning on family leadership expectations is the first step in diffusing the power struggle in a marriage. The second step is to practice the behaviors you identified as common ground. A marriage coach can help couples through this process.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in premarital/marriage, finances, ministry, and leadership. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves and to have thriving relationships. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

 

Bring FOCCUS to Your Conversations and Enrich Your Marriage

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Shine Crossings Ministry now offers another powerful tool to help dating and engaged couples prepare for marriage and for married couples to enrich their marital commitment. Although many couples are led by their feelings of love to walk down the aisle, a sustainable life-giving marriage requires preparation, which typically starts with key meaningful conversations. If premarital coaching was not part of your wedding preparation, it’s never to late to have those important conversations, even after having said, “I do.” The health of your marriage and of your family and its legacy depends on your relationship choices.

FOCCUS: Pre-Marital

The FOCCUS (Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding & Study) Pre-Marriage Inventory requires non-married couples to independently take a relationship enrichment inventory. Afterwards, a trained facilitator will lead a couple through their report in a safe space over 2 to 5 sessions—making room for deeper conversations and increased understanding. Questions cover lifestyle expectations, friends and interests, personality match, communication, problem-solving, spirituality, personal preferences, sexuality, parenting, financial, readiness issues, and commitment.

The couple report summarizes agreement levels in important relationship areas. Even if couples don’t agree, identifying those areas of disagreement or uncertainty eliminates surprises and provides an opportunity to talk through those issues. There are also questions for specific circumstances such as interfaith, re-marriage, co-habitation, and couples with more than one set of biological children. These areas can become hot topics and should be discussed before marriage.

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REFOCCUS: Marriage

Married couples looking for ways to invest in their marriage can take the REFOCCUS Marriage Enrichment Inventory. With spouses being pulled in many directions, especially those with dependent children, their conversations trend toward transactional topics such as “who’s got that” and away from the more enriching and connecting. A certified FOCCUS trainer can guide a couple to have those conversations that grow communication and marriage connection. Core sections include marriage as a process, intimacy, compatibility, communication, and commitment. There are even special sections for ministry marriages and empty-nesters. REFOCCUS is ideal for key life moments or transitions when a marriage relationship may need to be redefined such as birth of a child, major illness, job change, moving, retirement, and empty-nester.

Ready to Start?

You can learn more about the program by visiting FOCCUS. If you have questions or are already excited to pre-invest in your marriage or strengthen it, reach out for a conversation at 281.793.3741 or coach.sandra.dillon@gmail.com. Shine Crossings Ministry is ready to get you on your way. After collecting some contact information, you’ll be sent a link to take the online survey. Once your report is ready, we’ll schedule your first session.

If you think investing in your marriage is a step you want to take, but not sure whether the FOCCUS approach is the best way, Shine Crossings has other premarital and marriage strengthening programs to choose from such as Prepare & Enrich, Save Your Marriage Before It Starts (SYMBIS), and Marriage on the Rock. We can also develop a customized program based on your unique couple needs.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in premarital/marriage, finances, ministry, and leadership. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

 

 

How to Strengthen Your Marriage When Your Spouse Is Incarcerated

DSC00765I struggled with a title that would do justice in describing my experience volunteering as a relationship coach at a marriage seminar for 30+ couples in Lockhart’s Women’s Prison. What words could I share that would capture your attention to read and embrace the incredible impact that Greg and Melissa Alvis have every month on the couples who spend a full day in prison with the intent of strengthening their marriage.

Statistics show that the likelihood of a couple divorcing increases by 32% per year for every year that one spouse is incarcerated. With an average divorce rate already nearing 50%, you can safely assume that most marriages never survive through a spouse’s incarceration. Prison truly tests the strengthen of a marriage, and Greg and Melissa are slowing down that divorce rate to keep families not only surviving but thriving.

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The Ministry

Greg and Melissa travel the state of Texas with their self-created marriage strengthening seminar–knocking on prison doors and selflessly offering their personal testimony, program, and time. Spouses are invited to spend a Saturday with their incarcerated partner as the Alvis team and volunteers lead the couples through powerful material delivered in the form of lectures, exercises, and small group discussions. Oh, and the seminar ends with the couples renewing their vows! Wow, you can’t help but shed a few tears of joy.

DSC00786Greg and Melissa relate to these couples, because they are the heroes and authors of their own marriage story. The defied the marriages statistics. Greg was incarcerated for over 20 years, entering prison at the age of 26. Without a doubt, they struggled to keep their marriage alive, but their marriage survived 22 years of incarceration. They now have a powerful marriage testimony to share with other couples, who can travel their own path but end up in the same position as Greg and Melissa. Under the ministry of Ephesians 521, they taken their powerful learnings on the road, and the feedback is both emotionally moving and priceless.

The Ministry Impact

I could share my thoughts, impressions, and the words shared with husband, Darin, and me, but I’ll let the couples own words, in the form of direct quotes from the evaluation forms, sing praises for the program and its impact on their lives.

What was your favorite part of the day?

  • Spending time with my husband, incorporating God, being given healthy tools to meet our needs moving forward, and the volunteers’ perspective. Learning to love my partner the way he needs.
  • Tools on how to make my marriage better while incarcerated, because I was in fear of losing my husband.
  • I enjoyed the small groups, because we were able to learn more about each other’s needs.
  • Besides seeing my wife for a full day, receiving the training we both know will help us and the encouraging stories.
  • Renewing our wedding vows. I think it is exactly what we needed.
  • The renewal of our vows, because it was what we needed to move forward in our lives.
  • Looking into my husband’s eyes and holding his hands as we re-affirmed our love and commitment for one another.
  • Group discussions. I loved watching and listening to my husband talk about his opinions and feelings about our relationship, and it opened up our communication.
  • Spending time with my wife made us realize how important family is to stay together.
  • Enjoying my husband and renewing our vows and learning more about our needs and where we stand.
  • Eating lunch with my wife.
  • The gathering in small groups and finding out about others’ experiences.
  • The renewing of vows. I believe I have a new beginning in my life and my marriage.
  • Identifying personality types and traits. It seems helpful for day-to-day living.
  • Holding and touching my wife.
  • Spending the day bonding with my husband. We needed to have the physical touch.

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What is one thing you can take from the day that will help you move forward?

  • All that we have been through has made us stronger. Now we get to go from this with a stronger relationship and faith in one another…
  • I am not alone, and I have tools!
  • We’re not alone in our struggles.
  • Knowing how we still feel about each other in our relationship and what we have to look forward to.
  • Knowing we are not alone, and it’s only going to get better.
  • That my husband was committed to our marriage so much so that he put everything on hold in his life to be here with me, for us, for an entire day.
  • Listening to his feelings and working on his relational needs.
  • The book Growing Together as One. Learning about it and taking this advice home and practicing it towards our life.
  • Not lose faith in my spouse and enjoy life and the love we have for each other.
  • The actual real stories they spoke encouraged us.
  • To keep believing and staying together through it all–iron sharpens iron.
  • Knowing that I can move forward in faith and work with my husband and have a new relationship.
  • What my wife requires to feel loved.
  • Five love languages—learning to love him the way he needs.
  • Our commitment.
  • Recommitting and learning my husband’s feelings and our future is growing stronger.

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Importance of Marriage Support in Prison

Supporting any marriage is important, because so many relationships are at stake. If the marriage is strong, the family is strong. If the family is strong, the children are strong. If the children are strong, there is a greater chance the children will continue the legacy of a strong family. Keeping families together in a healthy marriage helps with mental health, financial security, and general well-being.

DSC00864AAs a marriage coach (www.shinecrossingsministry.com), I have a passion for strengthening marriages. As an executive volunteer with the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (www.pep.org), I have a mind to invest in felons who will eventually be released and need a hand up. As a marriage volunteer (www.ephesians521.org), I have a heart to help prison inmates take what is surely a first big step in investing in their marriages.

The Future

If I had to boil it down to its core, what Greg and Melissa bring to prison for the incarcerated and their spouses is hope–hope that their marriage can not only survive but thrive. They are the walking testimony of this fact. Go back and re-read the messages from the couples. They primarily speak of hope for a better future in their marriages.

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There aren’t many ministries that have this magnitude of impact in just one day. If you are as moved as I am on what Greg and Melissa are doing in the local mission field, I encourage you to visit their website (www.ephesians521.org) and make a donation of any amount. They are funding these seminars, primarily from their own resources and could use your encouragement in both word and donations.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in premarital/marriage, finances, ministry, and leadership. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

 

 

The 5 Respect Languages that Make Men Feel Loved

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Inspired by the books The Five Love Languages and Love & Respect, my marriage and relationship coaching have revealed what I call The Five Respect Languages that Make Men Feel Loved. Our culture talks endlessly about love but doesn’t talk enough about the love languages that speak specifically to boyfriends, husbands, and fathers. These five languages all reflect concepts of RESPECT. Respect is such a big word that if you ask five different men what it means, you will likely get five different definitions. However, I would guess that each description would refer to one of my five respect languages. What are they?

Let Him Lead

In today’s culture, many women are leading their families and letting their husbands take a backseat. In some cases, this role reversal stems from family modeling during childhood, where mothers made most of the decisions. In other cases, wives grab the leadership reins, because they don’t trust their husbands to lead well. Men want to lead their wives and families. Depending on their personality, some will fight for the leadership position while others will disengage. Husbands feel loved when their spouse shows their faith by entrusting them with the leadership role.

Support His Decisions

Every husband knows that his wife isn’t going to agree with every decision he makes. But if he honors her by seeking her counsel before making a decision that’s in the best interest of the family, he wants her support. The goal is not agreement but consensus. When a wife supports her husband’s decision in words and actions and is an active team member to make his decision come alive, a husband feels his wife’s love.

Appreciate Him

A husband likely makes personal sacrifices of time and money to provide for his wife and children and secure their comfort and security. He may choose to work two shifts to pay for college, take a job to make enough money so his wife can stay home, or secure a second job to pay for his kids’ sports fees. Giving words of affirmation, gifts, or serving him in ways that make his life easier lets him know that his wife recognizes and appreciates his efforts. Appreciation is a key metric in showing a man respect for what he does for his family.

Praise His Accomplishments

Men are designed to be hunters and conquerors. They set their sights on a goal, develop a plan, and then act. When a wife recognizes her husband’s accomplishments with her words to him and speaks positively of him to her family and friends, he feels appreciated. Good job! Well done! Men like to be acknowledged for what they achieve whether at the office or in the home. Praise makes him feel valued and that he’s doing the right things.

Have His Back

Stand by him. Every man wants to know when the times get tough, and it’s only a matter of time before tough times come, that his partner won’t leave. Husbands want a teammate, cheerleader, and someone who will be by his side. When the world is against him, he wants a wife whom he can count on, and one who is praying for him.

Next Steps

In my practice, I find women prefer to be loved and men want to be respected. It’s as simple as that. If we truly love one another, we will love people in the language that speaks to them. If you’re a wife, ask yourself how well you are loving your husband with the respect languages. Then ask your husband what he thinks. See where the conversation goes!


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in premarital/marriage, finances, ministry, and leadership. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

 

 

He Needs Respect and She Needs Love

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Love and respect are like the head and tail of a coin—conjoined yet with their backs to each other. In some ways, they are viewed as opposites, yet they are the glue that keeps a marriage together and strong. Which side do you gravitate toward: love or respect? Let me guess. If you’re a man, you want respect, and if you’re a woman, you said love. Am I right?

What’s the Difference Between Love and Respect?

When I coach couples and enter the discussion on marriage needs, in the top five for men, and usually in the number one position, is RESPECT. For a woman that number one position typically involves an expression of LOVE such as caring, affection, and intimacy. As I always tell couples, Respect and Love are big words—meaning if you ask 10 people to define love and respect you will get 10 different answers.

When I ask a wife, “What does love look like in action from your husband?” I get answers such as (1) share your feelings, fears, and joys with me and ask about mine, (2) listen to me without trying to fix my problem, (3) spiritually lead our family by going to church and setting an example for our children, and (4) create a marriage environment where I feel safe.  When I ask a husband, “What does respect look like in action from your wife?” I get answers such as (1) support me in my work and ability to make money for our family, (2) don’t turn away from me sexually, and (3) share your opinions and thoughts with me but support my decisions.

These answers are quite different. You likely never hear a woman complain she’s not getting the those things the husband wants and vise versa.

Are Men’s Needs Getting a Backseat to Women’s?

On the micro-level, I don’t see that men or women are disadvantaged, but on the macro-level, women’s needs are getting more attention than men’s. Why do I say that? Our world talks about love, love, and more love, especially, if you’re a Christ follower. We quote Scripture about love such as “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) and go so far as to advocate that we are to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). The Bible is full of stories about love, and we are encouraged to love unconditionally.

On the other hand, our world doesn’t give the same emphasis to respect.  When was the last time you hear someone say, “We should respect unconditionally?” You probably can’t recall a time, because we don’t usually say those two words together. In fact, it’s more common to hear what Rodney Dangerfield made famous, “How come I don’t get no respect?”

The Balance of Love and Respect

Happy and connected couples operate in a continuous cycle of love and respect. A husband gives his wife love, and in return a wife gives her husband respect. When the foundation of the marriage is built on love and respect, both are getting their most important need met. Dysfunctional marriages are those where the wife says, “I can’t respect him until he loves me,” and a husband says, “I can’t love her until she respects me.”  Both need to stop behaving as children and grow up.

Wedding vows usually include some version of the classic togetherness “until death do us part” after committing to weather the storms of “in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer.”  If I was in charge of writing wedding vows, I’d add “to respect him unconditionally even when he hasn’t earned it and to love her unconditionally even when she doesn’t deserve it.” Do you think anyone would dare include it?


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in premarital/marriage, finances, ministry, and leadership. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com