Family Dream Map

Family Dream Map

The beginning of the year is always an important time to reflect, assess and make new determinations. As our day is determined by the night before (how you slept, if your kids did his or her homework, if you ate something funny) so should the year before help us prepare for the one that comes next.

So, in the next few weeks, why not take some time to dream out the first weeks of the year with God and family? It’s a great time to think of our goals from last year, what we accomplished, and take the time to think through new ones.

This month you can do a simple activity together to think through what you want to accomplish this year through family dream maps. Modified from activities you can find floating around on the internet, Dream Maps give us the time and space to express what it is that we actually want. Although we usually think we know what we want, most times it’s easier to know what we don’t want! Instead, with Dream maps, we articulate our concrete goals in specific categories as a way to become clear on what we want in order to be able to work towards them.

We chose four specific categories, described below, to help us in our relationship with God and each other – but feel free to modify them as you would like:

Growth goal: Something connected to your personal spiritual growth and development. The more specific the better. If there’s an area you feel you’re lacking, try to articulate it in a positive way and to connect it with a specific habit. For example: by the end of the year, I’d like to have the habit of gratitude and so I’d like to write down three things I’m grateful for each day.

Relationship goal: This one should come up as particularly important for your family. Try to key into a specific relationship and a daily habit that can improve it. For example, I would like to work on having great communication with my son so I’d like to make sure I take at least five minutes every day to have a one-on-one conversation with him before bed. Having a general idea of when you will do it also helps to keep the habit!

Health goal: our health is interconnected with everything else and so our physical health is an important priority in our lives. Try to find a health goal that is, again, connected with a daily habit. For example, I’d like to work towards a specific BMI (generally between 18-24 is considered average in terms of health) and so I’d like to work on this by eliminating snacks and sugary drinks from my diet.

For our family, we also decided on a material goal, although we understand there are some dangers in doing so! Here we asked each person to identify something they’d like to have and to also think through some plan to achieve that goal. During the Christmas season, we could see that our kids were heavily dependent on Santa but with no steady means of income, we will have to consider how we’d like to approach money and responsibility another time. For us as parents, we were a little flexible with what that meant (I opted for a family experience rather than a possession).

In doing this activity, we made it a crafting activity and each person cut and glued origami paper onto a piece of thin cardboard. We decorated each sheet to our hearts’ content and drew the year in a big oval we drew in the middle. We then divided up the square into four quarters and wrote down our goals in each division. We all helped each other to complete our boards and we finished it off by announcing to each other our goals for the rest of the year.

I got a wire with clips attached and put it on our fridge so it can serve as a daily reminder.

What would your family dream map look like?

Family Tree: Understanding My Context

Family Tree: Understanding My Context

    “A person is always situated in a context, relating to what is above and below, right and left, and front and back. This context determines his or her position. Your life will turn out better or worse depending on whether you properly create relationships with those above you and below you, with those to your right and to your left, in front of you and in back of you.” From True Families: Gateway to Heaven (p 1)   This passage might be hard for a nine year old to understand, much less a seven year old or a three year old. So to break it down, we made a little family tree to be able to explain it in very specific terms. As always, we decided that the best way to do this was by making it a family craft activity! This was how it went for us:
  1. Since it was Christmas season, our family tree took the shape of a Christmas tree. First I took a large piece of paper and cut out a Christmas tree shape and had the kids draw and cut out ornament shapes from colorful paper to decorate the tree.
  2. My daughter made the star at the top and drew in glittery gold letters “God.” A good start.
  3. We then wrote the names of our (immediate) family members onto post-it notes and put them on our trees. We left space so that we could add in our extended family members in at a later time (another project!)
  4. We used special glittery pink and silver washi tape to draw out the lines of connection between each family member. Right now there are blank spaces but we will be filling in those soon.
  5. One further step – we had every person write down what they were grateful for. Our three year old was grateful for our family and, fittingly, Washi tape. 
Once we completed this tree, we could point to each line and name and say to Emily, “You are the older sister of your three younger siblings; the daughter of mama and papa; the granddaughter of grandpa and grandma on both papa and mama’s sides; and then niece of your aunts, uncles; cousin of your cousins, etc. That is your context.” Emily’s eyes lit up and she exclaimed,”Ahhh…!” What was wonderful was that, as comparatively big as our family might be with four kids, when we looked at our extended family tree we could see the more extensive network of loving bonds that went outwards to our cousins, aunts, uncle and grandparents. Looking at the pink and silver lines on our tree, we could see those above, below, left, right, front and back, our little microcosm became that much more complex and wonderful. Personally, I grew up in a small family with very little contact with my relatives as my parents had immigrated to the United States before I was born. This being as such, I never had strong ties or relationships with my grandparents and cousins and so I never understood the wonderful world of cousins, aunts, uncles and grandmas and grandpas. Now as a parent, I’m very happy that my children have very strong bonds of love and trust with their relatives and hope to keep them strong through constant communication and exchange. This is our family tree at the moment. What would your family tree look like? Happy Holidays!  
Slow and Steady

Slow and Steady

In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins not through strength but perseverance.”

Jackson Brown Jr.
American author

My niece was always naturally athletic. In kindergarten, she was always the fastest in her class and when she got to elementary school, she was easily the fastest girl in her grade. In first grade, she won the school marathon and so was given the coveted position of relay race runner. This was something kids repeated to each other in hushed tones, “She’s a relay race runner.” This was said regardless of its relevance to the topic at hand.

So, when she was picked to be a relay race runner in second grade, it was somewhat expected. Not only was she a relay race runner, she was also in the anchor position, an added honor rewarded only to the fastest of the bunch.

A few days before the race, I asked my niece whether she had been practicing for the relay. She looked at me as if in surprise. She explained to me that were she to practice too much she would get tired. I looked and pressed, “are you sure that’s the best way to prepare?” She nodded confidently with a slight smile – she was the expert after all.

Photo Credit: Mark Zimmermann

The day of the race came, and my husband jostled for a good position to take video of our little niece in what we hoped to be her moment of glory. He ended up standing next to a particularly enthusiastic father who was yelling advice to his daughter as the young kids dashed down their lanes. Red-faced, sweating and excited, this father then threw up his hand triumphantly as his daughter, an anchor for the yellow team, crossed the finished line – first place!

Our darling little niece, had ended up tripping and scraping her knee. Even so, she still got up and bravely finished the race – third place – not bad overall. Her knee was scraped quite badly and the nurse, her mother and father came over to comfort her and clean her knee. She cried from the pain and her shame at the loss, with sand mixing with her tears and leaving brown streaks across her plump little 8-year-old cheeks.

My sister later heard that the girl who had won the race had practiced running with her now very proud and enthusiastic father every day for a year in preparation for the relay.

Although the story was a bitter one for my niece, it was an important lesson for us all. Every story has a flip side and were we related to the other little girl it would have been a “Tortoise and the Hare” victory story. That day, we experienced the loss from the perspective of the Hare. Although in many ways it becomes a story we’d like to forget or to change, to do so would cover over the essential lesson we need to learn in order to be truly successful in life.

In our efforts to be closer to what God intended, to fulfill our highest potential, we need to face life’s experiences with honesty, humility and gratitude. Today, let’s not skip over the bad moments we have in life. Let us reflect, let us learn from our mistakes and keep going, keep working to become a better version of ourselves.

 That day, we learned that slow and steady wins the race and that it was the everyday habits leading up to the race that made all the difference.

The sting of that memory pushes us now: What are the habits I need to develop today to get closer to my goals?

Seeking Out the Divine

Seeking Out the Divine

Religious and spiritual leaders must lead this peace process. Instead of advocating their own narrow doctrinal perspective, they must help all people of faith to recognize the shared values and principles that come from our common heritage in one God.

 —Dr. Hyun Jin Preston Moon (Global Peace Festival 2008) 

Seeking out the Divine

The founder of the Family Peace Association, Dr. Hyun Jin Preston Moon, has always emphasized the central importance of placing God at the center of our families, communities and nation, and world. He has also advocated for the special role of spiritual leaders and faith communities in doing this:

We have discovered that relations between faith traditions are not about mere toleration of one another’s prayers and rituals. A true interfaith experience is a celebration of the core principles that bind all God-affirming people together as one family.

It is with this understanding that we seek to provide a platform for like-minded partners to collaborate for the cause of building strong, God-centered families. Through attuning ourselves to look for spiritual truths in everyday places and through sharing the wisdom of our respective faith traditions, we hope to become ever-more conscious of how we need to live our daily lives. In this, faith communities need not approach one another as rivals but as brothers and sisters of faith in the journey of building greater spiritual consciousness in our nation and world.

Faith and wisdom traditions have always played a seminal role in helping people explore the meaning of life and individual purpose in life. The many people who go through life seeking meaning and purpose find them in his or her faith community. Whatever word that we might use: Ultimate Reality, the Absolute Being, the Transcendent, Brahman, Creator, etc., when we root our origins in the Creator, we then become grounded in the idea that we have a purpose. In order to know that purpose, we need to know then, the Creator, God. Different traditions may know this Being by different names but for our purposes, we use the term God to represent something that is ineffable and could never be fully expressed in words.

On a practical level, becoming spiritually conscious means to become more and more attuned to the spiritual laws and nature of life and then to align ourselves accordingly. Dr. Moon’s father, Rev. Sun Myung Moon outlined the most practical way to do this: in our families. In True Families: Gateway to Heaven, he explains:

Whether it concerns issues in your family or problems facing the nation or the world, the same formula applies: we must deal with relationships to those above and below, on the right and on the left, in front and in back. […] This is the case whether you are relating to your parents or your children, to your husband or your wife, or to your brothers and sisters.

True Families, Gateway to Heaven, pp 9-10

It is in the family that we learn to love and care for our mother, father, grandfather, grandmother, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, and uncles. It is within this network of love and care that allows us to develop our character and cultivate emotional ties with other people as well as learn how to deal with others. What we learn in the family we can then extend to those around us:

The same applies as you relate to the nation and world. Your family should take the lead in your nation to embrace families in the east and west and north and south and encourage all families to do the same. Your family should embrace the civilizations of East and West and of North and South and embrace all the people of the world as your brothers and sisters. This is the way to bring about one world family.

True Families, Gateway to Heaven, pp 9-10

To do this, we challenge ourselves to create plans to practice and embody God’s eternal truths in our everyday family life as concrete actions, behaviors, and habits. The following is an activity to develop our spiritual consciousness – to seek out God in our everyday lives together as a family. 

 Activity

Creating Healthy Family Habits: Seeking the Divine Image

The steps to this activity are really very simple.

  1. First, plan out time for your family to go out into nature. The setting doesn’t matter so long as it is in nature – the forest, a beach, a field – somewhere you can ‘study’ nature. The purpose of this time is one in which we seek out reflections of the “Divine Image” in nature.
  2. Take something for each person to take personal notes, questions, sketches, etc. While it’s fine to talk as you go along, you want to make sure that you don’t lose focus on the activity of investigating.
  3. Some general themes to observe:
    • What does nature need to grow?
    • What limits growth?
    • What are the different stages of growth?
    • What is the general dynamic of life in an ecosystem?
    • Did you observe important roles each species plays in the ecosystem?
    • Did you observe instances where the energy did not flow (air, water) – what did that look like?
    • If or when you observe “invasive species” – what are the qualities that make them invasive in that ecosystem?
  4. Then, to wrap up you want to take some time to share with one another your observations and questions. What patterns did you see?

This might be a bit awkward in the beginning and we encourage you to try it in different ways until it starts to feel more natural. For some people, it is like training a muscle and we need time and consistency to see or feel results.

It will also take time to be able to draw lines of connection between observations made about nature and the laws that govern nature and the laws that govern the human world. These types of shared experiences together as a family are important as they set a basis for which to later explain lessons from the natural world to our spiritual lives.

The more we engage and learn to share and explore with one another about life, universal laws, growth and nature the easier it becomes to share on anything and everything else. We encourage you to treasure these moments and make efforts to make it a central part of your lives together as a family.

For all these reasons and more, this is an activity that can be repeated without end. In fact, all of the activities we include in this book is of that nature. And every time the activity is done, a new layer of knowledge, consciousness, skill, etc. is added – we ourselves have become different. In that way, every time we do an activity, in some sense we are different people from those who did the activity before!

For an approach for younger kids, click here.

Checking Our Packs: Setting Out

Checking Our Packs: Setting Out

In our efforts to become God-centered families, we can work towards developing specific tools of critical thinking skills and channels for open and honest dialogue among family members.

In a sense, these tools function like navigation tools. To get somewhere, we need to know where we want to go and then know how we can get there. We also need to have a compass to keep us headed in the right direction as well as some things in case of emergencies and detours!

On our website, we feature a growing number of articles, activities, discussion questions to get us started to acquire the skills to build healthy, happy families.

Let’s take some time to summarize and articulate some of the conclusions you’ve come to together as a family through this process of building a healthy, happy family.

  1. Sitting around the camp fire can be a moment for family discussions.

    Destination: What kind of family do we want to have?

  2. What we’ll need:
    • Compass (so we’re headed in the right direction)
    • Maps (to plan, set goals/habits to get us there)
    • Tools (help us along the way)
    • Emergency kit (in case of conflicts, major/minor decisions)
  3. What other things do we need?

Try to fill in ideas in the different categories above.

Ask yourselves and each other: What do we have, what do we need? What don’t we need? What might be getting in our way? What do we want to work towards? Are we making room in our everyday lives for this bigger family goal?

No doubt, there will be adjustments along the way but knowing and becoming mindful of these things are going to help us be more conscious of our habits, behaviors, and decisions.