As I finish up my series on strengthening relationships, I have chosen friendships as my final focus.

While God and extended family clearly take precedence, I feel like friendships do not always get the proper attention that they deserve, since they fall a little further down on the list of priorities.

However, if I focus strategically on each of my priorities, then my friends will be able to remain as close as family.

It's important to note, however, that to me a friend is someone that is much more than a Facebook contact.

We communicate on a regular basis, celebrate life’s events together and support each other during trying times.

Friends should be a very important component of my life, as they are a part of my individuality…handpicked, not a result of circumstance.

As I look back on each of my other resolutions, I realize the relationships that I have with my friends should too serve as a model for my children, as they are healthy, productive and sincere.

Therefore, the 5 select strategies that I will work on to continue developing and strengthening my friendships are:

1. Share in life's celebrations with them -

Whether it is birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, new babies, job promotions or other life events, I need to be there to celebrate.

One of the things that the neighborhood ladies really enjoy is organizing a lunch, complete with cake and balloons for the birthday girl.

It's not unusual for us to have 20 people celebrating one friend's birthday together mid-week, then again on Friday or Saturday night with families.

We have even been known to celebrate an anniversary or two together.

As our group of friends continues to expand, I need to make sure I stay on top of keeping dates in my phone and acknowledging important events as they come up.

2. Be their support during trying times -

Whether it is a divorce, illness, surgery, loss of loved one, a move or any other personal issue, they need to know that they can count on me.

It is also important to keep track of dates that have historically been a challenge for my friends.

For example, on the first anniversary after the loss of a parent, they will probably need a shoulder to cry on.

Likewise with a divorce...when their anniversary date comes back around, tears might be shed for what was lost, even if the decision to separate was truly the best one.

Even though I will have a “To Do List” a mile long, I also need to pay special attention to who will be going through a particularly rough holiday season and be part of their support system during this time.

3. Help, whether they ask for it or not -

As the days and nights seem to get busier and personal issues become more pronounced, I need to help alleviate a friend’s stress whenever I can.

Some of the ideas that I have come up with to do this are:

- ask them what I can pick up for them while I am at the grocery store,
- carpool with them to extracurricular activities,
- take pictures and/or video for a school production that they have to miss,
- watch their house and pets so they can take a much needed get-away,
- get a bigger gift for another friend's birthday, if they don't have time to go shopping,
- take dinner over for the family when I know they are having a hard day,
- take breakfast over early in the morning so they can get a few more minutes of sleep,
- help pack and move them into a new house,
- go with them to talk to legal counsel, if they need support,
- be their nurse as they recuperate from surgery,
- make them guinea pigs for new dessert recipes - after all, chocolate does fight cancer and stress,
- run errands for them, such as to the dry cleaners, the post office, or return a movie,
- pick up their children from school or at the bus stop, when they are running late,
- show up on cleaning day and get busy,
- help their children with the same homework that my kids are doing,
- take their kids for an afternoon playdate, so they can have a break, and
- help with holiday shopping, since many of our children are of similar age and have the same wish list.

4. Stay in touch with them regardless of how busy we get -

One of my dearest friends, Amy, gave me a plaque that says, “Good friends are like stars, you may not always see them, but you know that they’re there.”

While sometimes it is near impossible to keep up with everyone on a weekly basis, it is still important that they know that I am thinking about them.

Sending a text only takes a matter of seconds, but I know how much it means to me when I get one, saying, "Just thinking about you. Hope all is going well!"

Getting a funny card, in the mail, is also special.

I'll never forget receiving a Get Well Soon card from Kelli, even though we see each other often and she lives two streets over.

This year one of my friend's, Kim, sent me an anniversary card, followed a couple of weeks later by a holiday card. That was also so incredibly thoughtful.

Receiving these little surprises in the mail really got me to thinking that if I enjoy them this much, then my girlfriends would, too.

This year I will get back to mailing good old-fashioned Holiday, Birthday, Anniversary, Congratulations, Thinking of You, and Get Well Soon cards, all while losing weight from hysterically laughing in the store aisles as I read them.

Another wonderful, very busy friend, Kristina, has a list of people that she sends daily inspirational quotes to.

Getting these every morning is something I really look forward to and greatly appreciate, as well.

5. Be part of their support system for personal endeavors -

With so many people on weight loss plans and workout regimes, trying to stop drinking or smoking, cutting back on shopping and diet sodas, trying to build better marriages and relationships with their children, there is no shortage of opportunities for me to prove my dedication as a friend.

I can be tough and no-nonsense when I have to be, or really motivational and uplifting when the circumstance requires it.

My friends need to know that they can count on me to back them up or get them back on track when ever they need it.

I also am good at using discretion with other people's issues or projects, so they can always come to me and I will keep my mouth shut.

By focusing on these 5 strategies to strengthen my friendships, I know that this year I will be able to spend more quality time with the girls, instead of letting these relationships fall by the wayside, as family priorities take over.

Even more importantly, my children will learn how to have happy, healthy relationships with their friends, too.

Check out My Journey with Friends project to see my work-in-progress highlighting how I am learning to really appreciate all of the special things that each of my friends brings to my life.

Here's to another Inspired Minute!

Author's Bio: 

Hi there! My name is Tracey and I’m on a mission to turn average days at home into meaningful minutes. I’m a wife, mother of 3 and an Inspired Life Blogger. This is my journey to create ways to save time, maximize money, creatively organize, craft, gift, and decorate and humbly volunteer. Please visit my blog at InspiredMinute.com for ideas and tips that I hope will inspire you!