Fostering Friendships

I remember as a child being painfully shy. I wanted to make friends, but I wasn’t sure how and I wasn’t sure anyone would like me. I remember my mom, who has always been a friendly person, saying, “Just be friendly. Ask what their name is and tell them your name.” It made sense, yet for some reason I just couldn’t do it. I did take some of her advice though and I did try to join in games or activities that others were doing. Still to talk to someone I didn’t know was very hard, so most of the time I just listened. Now listening isn’t a bad skill, still, just how do those of us on the shyer side learn to make friends? I am happy to say, I’e come a long ways since those shy days. I don’t consider myself shy any more. I am really more outgoing and I’m loving it. How did I get there and how can we help our kids make friends?

I prayed about it. My best friend Jesus heard a small girl’s prayers and little by little, He answered. He nudged me out of my comfort zone to introduce myself to others and to be the first one to say my name. I still mostly listen during conversations, but I find that people love to talk to someone who listens to them and who tries to understand how they feel. I also learned to smile and ask questions. When you give someone a genuine smile, they usually smile back and when you ask about their day or wish them a good day, it lets them know that you care. As I listen, I try to really listen and remember what someone has told me. When we listen only with the intent of thinking of what we are going to say, we often miss what the other person is really talking about, but when we listen to understand and then respond with genuine interest, we’ve gained a friend.

I also learned that most people are not trying to judge you. Yes, I suppose we all make snap judgements at times. I know I’ve met someone and thought, “Oh they must be a teacher.” because of something they said only to find out that they worked in a doctor’s office or I’ve thought that someone was rich because they dressed very nicely and later found out that they weren’t any richer than I was, but they knew how to shop the sales. Still most people aren’t automatically trying to judge you as a person or judge what you say unless you are responding in an unkind manner. Most people are happy to smile back at you and are glad that there are some friendly people in the world.

If you are in a group where you don’t know anyone and feel kind of alone, you can be sure that there is at least one other person feeling the same way. So just introduce yourself. Ask their name and then ask where they are from, where they grew up, what their job is or even about the weather. Just introduce yourself! You might make their day.(Did you know that you can find lists of “getting-to-know-you” questions on line if you need something to get you started?)

Ok, so I’m still not the life of the party and I sometimes wonder if I will ever have a friendship quite like David had with his friend Jonathan, but I’m happy to say, I have friends – lots of friends and I am definitely not shy!!! In fact, I belong to a Toastmaster’s group and I actually enjoy public speaking. I didn’t get there overnight, but little by little, with God’s help, I faced my fears. I challenged myself to get out of my comfort zone and I realized that there were a lot of other people, just like me who were little apprehensive about introducing themselves. I’m still growing in my quest to be braver and more outgoing. My next goal is to get enough courage to share my ideas in group meetings even if I’m afraid that everyone is smarter and has better ideas than I do, even if I come across as ridiculous. The only ridiculous idea or question is the one not asked or shared.

How can we ever hope to have a friend like David had in Jonathan? Perhaps the best answer is to genuinely love and care about others. When we can get our eyes off of ourselves and our fears, focusing on the other person instead, then we can be a friend. The best way to make friends is to simply be a friend to someone else.

PRAYER: Father God,
Thank you for being my friend and thank you for sending Jesus to the world. He lived among us and experienced what we experience. He knew loneliness, pain, hunger and thirst. He endured ridicule, misunderstanding and rejection. he also experienced love and companionship and through it all, He loved and served. He healed and helped. He lived selflessly and He called us to follow Him. He died so that we might live in relationship with our Father God. Thank you Jesus, for being my friend. Help me, Lord, to let go of my selfish fears and be a friend to others. I know that I can be a friend because you are my friend and you are always with me. Amen

SHARE A STORY: Good Friends – David & Jonathan – 1 Samuel 20:12-42
David and Jonathan were very good friends. They loved each other. (Give self a hug.) But Jonathan’s dad was the king and he didn’t like David. (Make sad, mean face.) He was jealous and wanted to hurt David. Jonathan promised David that he would find out if his dad really was mad, (Show mad face.) then he would let David know so that he could go away where it was safe.

Jonathan talked to his dad and King Saul was still very angry. He thought people liked David better than him. Jonathan was sad because his dad was mad. (Show sad face.) But He had promised to let David know and good friends keep their promises. Good friends help each other.

Jonathan went out to the field where David was hiding. He shot some arrows to let David know that his dad was still mad and that David needed to get away. Afterwards Jonathan sent the boy who was with him back to town so he could see his friend, David, one last time. David came out from where he was hiding to say good bye to his friend. They cried together, (Say, “Boo hoo!”) and they promised to be friends forever. (Say and clap, “Friends forever.”) They promised to be kind to each other.

David and Jonathan were very good friends.They loved God (Point up.) and they loved each other. (Give self a hug.)You can be a good friend too. Ask God to help you be a good friend and show kindness just like Jonathan did. Do you know who wants to be your good friend? Jesus! He really loves you. You can be a good friend to others because Jesus lis a good, good friend to you.

Dear God,
Thank you for my friends. Help me to be a good friend and be kind to others.
Help me remember to share. Thank you God for being my friend too. I love you! Amen

MEMORIZE: Proverbs 17:17 – (Hold hands open as though holding a book.)
A friend – (Hook pointer fingers together.)
Loves – (Give self a hug.)
At all – (Throw hands out to sides.)
Times – (Point to clock.)

VERSE SONG: (To the tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”)
A friend loves at all times,
All times, all times.
A friend loves at all times,
And Jesus is a friend of mine.
(2nd time through replace last line with Proverbs 17:17)

With young children, getting together with other families with young children is a good start. Young children begin to understand friendship as they simply play alongside one another. Playing with your child as he/she plays alongside others helps too – as well as having toys that can be shared – 2 trucks, 2 dolls, blocks, etc.

  • Teach your preschooler what to say when meeting someone new. “Hi! My name is …. What’s your name?”
  • Invite someone over to play one on one. with your child. It’s a little less intimidating one on one than in a whole group..

  • Introduce kids to each other. Have some of the friendlier, less shy kids be greeters to welcome other kids. Assign someone to be a new child’s special buddy the first day in class.
  • Play a name game in circle time by clapping different names or singing the names around the circle.
  • Include activities where more than one child is included – art activities done as a group or building together, doing a puzzle together, etc.
  • Model and role play how to introduce yourself and some get-to-know you types of questions.
  • With older kids, encourage friendships amongst kids who have like interests, but also amongst kids who are different.
  • Celebrate each child’s uniqueness.

Dream Big

 I wonder what BIG dreams this little one has? 

Are you a dreamer, more of a realist or perhaps you tend to be a pessimist, always seeing the negative side? Are you a dream builder or a dream stealer? I have been all of these at some point in my life. I think we all have.

I try to be an optimist. I try to believe in the beauty of my dreams and I also try to encourage others in the pursuit of their dreams, especially kids. Though I try my hardest to be optimistic, when life beats me down, I still get discouraged. What about other people’s dreams? Well, there have incidents where for the sake of what I call reality, I have discouraged dreams. I know I did so with my sons when they were teenagers. They had big dreams and while I so wanted them to succeed in their dreams, I also tried to help them understand that they needed a back-up plan just in case. In the process of pitting their dreams with reality, I’m afraid I discouraged them. When my daughter got ready to leave for college, I was much more encouraging. I think I learned my lesson. She wanted to go to a college that I didn’t think we could afford, yet I felt as if God was saying to trust Him. If God was for this particular college, then God would make a way. Guess what? He did! I’m beginning to realize more and more that God has BIG dreams for us. And if God has BIG dreams for us, then I want to be a dream encourager rather than a dream stealer. If it’s part of God’s plan for us, no matter what obstacles we may be facing, it will happen.

Joseph believed in His God given dreams. Did he fully understand what those dreams meant as a teenager? I doubt that he did, but he did know that God had given him the dreams for a reason and he sought to find out what they meant. He may have been a little cocky in his sharing of his dreams, but he never let go of them. He would have to wait several more years before he ever saw the fulfillment of those dreams, yet God was preparing him and Joseph remained true to God and true to what God had placed in his heart.

Did Joseph ever doubt God’s plan for His life or wonder what God was doing? He may have. He was human after all. He may have wondered why his brothers sold him into slavery, why he was wrongfully accused of assaulting Potiphar’s wife, why he ended up in prison. Yet in all of this, he trusted God and I believe he never forgot that God made him for a reason.

What about you? Are you dreaming BIG? Have you asked God what His plan is for you? Have you asked Him what your place is in “His” story?
I encourage you to do so? Don’t listen to the dream stealers, those people, sometimes friends and family members, who might say that your dream is not realistic, or that you are too old, too young or not strong enough. If your dream is God given, then it will come to pass and if it isn’t, you can be sure that God will lead you into what He does have for you.

I believe God wants us to dream BIG. I believe He gives us BIG dreams for a reason. Joseph’s BIG dreams were put there because he would one day save his family, although he didn’t fully understand at the time. Perhaps your BIG dream was given you to show God’s might and power, because what we can’t do, He can. Whatever your BIG dream is, pray about it and go for it. I believe God will help you.

Do you know someone else who has a BIG dream, encourage them. Don’t worry if their dream seems realistic or not, ask God how you can encourage them and maybe even come alongside them to help make their dream a reality. Pray together with your friend. Ask God to show them the steps they need to take if the dream is to be a reality and if not, then ask God to show them what He does want them to pursue,

God made each one of us for a reason, that means you too. So DREAM BIG!

I know you made me in an amazing and wonderful way. You created me in your image. I can think, dream and do good things. I want the things I do and say to honor you and honor others. I know in the past I’ve been too quick to put down or steal others dreams, especially my kids. Please forgive me. I don’t want to be a dream stealer, I want to be a dream encourager. I think I’ve done a little better with my grandkids, thanks to your reminders and your intervention in my life. But oh how I want to be someone who believes in the beauty of dreams, especially if those dreams have been placed in someone’s heart by you God. When someone’s dream doesn’t become a reality, regardless the reason, I don’t want to be the one who says, “I told you so!” Instead, I want to help them back up and encourage them to dream again. It doesn’t matter how old or how young we are. Age simply doesn’t matter in your kingdom. It doesn’t matter what our income or social status is. I believe you have placed a dream in every one of our hearts. Lord, help us to seek you and find that dream. When discouraging circumstances come and put our dreams on hold, remind us to persevere because you either have a better dream for us or you will lead us into our dream at just the right time. Lord, you have a purpose and a plan for each one of us. Show me how I can lead my kids, grandkids and others into that plan. Show me how I too can walk in that plan. Teach us Lord, not to give up, because you created us for a reason. Thank you God! Amen

* Make some time to dream – Make a dream board or a bucket list. Ask God what He wants you to put on that list.

* I love this quote by Lorna Faith, “God gives us dreams a size too big so that we can grow into them.” I add, “And so we have to depend on Him.” Depend on God and grow into your dreams.

* Pray and listen – listen to God’s Word, listen to that inner voice of the Holy Spirit and listen to your heart.

* Ask yourself, “Who am I? What talents and abilities do I have? What experiences in my life might be an encouragement to others?”

* Set some goals to reach your dream. Be willing to take that first step into the water.

* Don’t listen to negative voices. God calls us to walk in faith. Trust that He is guiding you. If He wants you to change direction or wants to replace one of your dreams with something different, He will let you know.

* Don’t quit when the going gets tough.

* When your dreams seem shattered beyond repair, I like to listen to Danny Gokey’s song,“Tell Your Heart To Beat Again”

* Finally, here’s a quote from Mother Teresa, “It is His work and He will provide. He has always taken care of us. If He wants something to be done, He will give us the means.” God-given dreams always will be provided for.

Kid’s Section

SHARE A STORY: Joseph Has Big Dreams – Genesis 37
This story is about Joseph. Joseph grew up in a big family. Can you guess how many brothers he had? He had eleven brothers. (Count to 11 with your child.) That’s a lot!

One day Joseph’s dad made him a beautiful colorful coat. (Pretend to put on coat.) Joseph knew His dad loved him. (Give self a hug.) He also knew that God loved him, (Point upwards.) but his brothers didn’t like him. The brothers didn’t like Joseph’s BIG dreams. Joseph’s brothers thought his dreams were silly, (Say, “Silly dreams!”) but God gave Joseph his dreams and God would help Joseph be who He wanted him to be. He had a very special plan (or job) for him.

Later Joseph would help his family, even his brothers who didn’t like him. God planned for Joseph to grow up and help his family in a big way.

Did you know that God has a special plan for you too? He does. He made you so that you can do many things. God made you so that you can love, learn and grow. He loves you and He has something that you can do now and when you grow up. He made you for a special reason. You can trust God to help you just like He helped Joseph.

MEMORIZE: Psalm 139:14 NIrV – (Hold hands as though holding a book.)
How you – (Point upwards.)
Made me – (Point to self)
Is amazing – (Hold up closed fists then open hands wide.)
And wonderful – (Jump up and down with hands in the air.)

Dear God,
You did such a good job when you made the world and when you made me. Thank you for all the beautiful colors. Thank you for my mind and my hands and feet. I trust you to help me because you are always with me. Help me to be everything you created me to be. Help me to dream BIG! Amen

KNOW: God has something for me to do.
TALK ABOUT: What your child wants to be or do when they grow up.
ASK: Who made you? God made me. God made me for a reason.What can you do? I can trust God.

* Play out different roles with your child this week – follow their lead. Be a fireman, baker,   dancer   or whatever you wish….  Dream BIG! 

* Encourage your child as he is learning new things. Let them know when they do a good job.