Friends of ours have this house. I think you’d call it a ‘work in progress’…

At the start, the plan was pretty simple (and modest). As my mate explained all those years ago, stick a three bedroom home on the farm they had bought that would, “Keep the rain off the kids, the dust off the car, and the smile on the missus’s face”! And so the journey began.

Perched part the way up the hill and looking out towards the mountains at the back of Wingham, it was the perfect spot on what was ex-dairy country. The lower ground was mostly river flats with deep pasture, and the back of the block covered in timber that ran all the way up the mountain and over the ridge. West of their place is ‘tiger country’, and mountainous rugged bush. The house block was chosen because of the view, and it sat on a spot that bridged the river flats and bush, bringing protection from the ‘westerly winds’ that hit us all around August every year.

At first the ‘three bedder’ plan was stuck to. After the house came a big farm shed, followed by another shed, followed by bigger cattle yards….followed by another shed (It’s true, you can never have too many sheds….!). The kids were always dry, the car actually never got to the garage so it was always covered in dust, and the ‘missus’? Well, she gave birth to six kids over the next ten years! They certainly did their bit to ensure the financial future of their local Christian school. And overall of those years, I never heard one word of complaint. She did, however, mount a pretty good case for three bedrooms not being quite enough!

Every time we’d call out to say G’day there would be a new building project underway. At first, they added a couple of bedrooms. Then the bathroom ran out of steam (Get it… ’ran out of steam’! Sorry…. dad joke!). Then the kitchen wasn’t cutting it (ba-boom… ’CUTTING IT’ … Knives… Kitchen… Sorry!). Then when child number five arrived another bedroom off the side, and a veranda just ‘cause they could. And another shed. What had started off as a modest three bedroom cottage with an iron roof and some of James Hardy’s best wacked up on the outside had become something that resembled an Olympic Village, all-be-it surrounded by a lot of sheds and expansive cattle yards!

At the end of the day, all of the buildings and gravel driveways and farm stuff that had been collected was not what I remember most. My strongest memories are of the meals we shared around an old kitchen table out on the veranda, and the times we sat and watched the kids hold each other’s hands and then one of them grab the electric fence! Or chasing the horse around for two hours trying to catch and saddle it, and then after two minutes riding they’d all lose interest and go for a swim in the creek. It was watching our kids grow up, and seeing them become teachers, doctors, business owners, lawyers, or midwives. It is seeing a family doing life together, and being impressed by their ability as a family to get through both the highs and the lows, but always together.

Relationships are the bedrock of life. Our relationship with our God, with those around us, and with ourselves (as weird as that can sound) are all at the centre of life. When one of those things is out of whack, life is out of whack. If we are out of step with God we sense a lack of purpose and of having ‘greater meaning’ in our lives. If we are out of whack with others we feel a sense of isolation and insecurity. If our relationship with our self is out of whack, well let’s just say that’s the definition of anxiety and depression. All of these things are rife amongst young people these days. Kids have a thousand answers to questions that don’t matter, and none for the ones that do.

We can keep adding ‘extensions’ to the house to meet some immediate need, but when the kids grow up and move on with their lives all those extensions become empty. We can fill up our lives with all sorts of things to avoid facing the ‘immediate challenges’, but in the end, we’ll have to face them at some point. If we have invested in our relationships (God, others, self), then we never have to face them alone. We will be surrounded by people who care and have been part of our journey.

I heard something really sad the other day. A parent told me that COVID-19 hadn’t changed anything for them because they felt ‘isolated’ long before 2020. Now everyone “had a reason to not notice them”. It reminded me both how blessed I have been to be surrounded by family, colleagues and friends, but also that I have a responsibility to walk with others. To ‘notice’ people when others may not. Can I encourage you to look for someone who may need a phone call or a cup of coffee, and to then go and be an encouragement to them. To let them know they are ‘noticed’. A few minutes of your time could make a world of difference to someone else!

Geoff Brisby