I’ve been rummaging around toolboxes of all kinds this past month as I help my family prepare our beloved old family home for sale.

Everyone has a toolbox of sorts, right? Maybe a very organised, multi-layered affair loaded with all sorts of spanners, screwdrivers, hammers, pliers, tongs. All present and correct. Or perhaps it’s a more basic version – a shoe box in a drawer, or on top of a shelf somewhere with a hammer, pliers, an odd assortment of screwdrivers and Allen keys and a fistful of unidentifiable IKEA leftovers.

It seems to me that love is our toolbox. It’s foundational. Love is the inside and outside, the hinges, the clasp – the key. Love keeps everything together. Neat and ordered, maybe. Messy – more likely. Strong – hopefully, but not necessarily.

“Family reasons”

Since starting Dancing Wombat, I’ve tried to write a reflection every week to two weeks. It’s been a good discipline for me, cheap therapy and valuable “me” time! That has fallen in a bit of a heap recently, for “family reasons” – to use that well-known excuse!

What a multitude of issues “family reasons” cover. Holidays, illness, grandparents, buying a house and packing up a lifetime in your old house, changing jobs, challenges at school…If this were a multiple choice question, my answer to “What are your family reasons?” would be (d) All of the above.

Tough going

I’ve been on such a steep learning curve over the past three weeks, I feel like I need an oxygen tank. I’ve scaled the heights of optimism and been pulled, with my fellow-climbers, down into the depths of despair. I’m determined to climb out.

And although one of the climbers disagrees vehemently with the path we’re taking, we have to go the slow and safe way.

The whole family is on this trek – we’re roped together and we’re staying together. Yes, the path is proving more treacherous and difficult than we could have ever imagined. However, like the three Billy Goats Gruff looking to the green pastures beyond the troll, there is much beyond these challenging peaks that is worth struggling for. We might emerge bruised and battered, but I’m determined we will emerge together, in a better place and stronger for it.

So, not being a climber, I’m poorly prepared and inexperienced for what we’re going through. If I had a parent’s handbook, I would have thrown it out long ago. Really, the only rule is that there are no rules, except for a) Flexibility and adaptability are key and b) One size does not fit all.

There are many paths to the same destination if you really want to reach it. Hope is mandatory. Love is absolutely non-negotiable. Trust would be brilliant, but circumstances and personalities sometimes conspire to erode it.  Love and hope, though, can provide a shelter in which trust can be rebuilt over time.

Is love enough?

I read a comment recently, that became an earworm in my head, playing over and over in an endless loop. That comment was about love not being enough, when looking after our children with special needs. “Love is just not enough…” Really? That bugged me. Why is love not enough? Could it be? Should it be?

Certainly, love without action is meaningless. Of course, we need food, shelter, clothing, medical attention to name some of the essentials. And yet sometimes there is much love but an inability to provide even the barest necessities. Ask any refugee fleeing conflict. Love is not enough there. It doesn’t provide the food, or a safe roof in a war zone. But perhaps, love drives the determination to get through, to do whatever it takes to protect the loved ones, to sustain hope that better times will come, and importantly, to sustain this hope for those who seem to have lost it.

What’s in your toolbox?

Love gets more than its fair share of knocks. We tend to be hardest on the ones we love the most because they’re usually the ones who are there when we let our guard down and are at our neediest. However, knowing that doesn’t make being an emotional punching bag any easier.

So, our toolbox get a bit battered. The shoebox comes apart at the corners. The tray gets knocked over and everything spills out onto the floor. Maybe, some things go missing.

Toolbox love

Quite an accurate representation of the old toolbox…

What’s in your toolbox? Do you have everything you need? Are your tools in good condition? Do you have the hammer of hope? The pliers of persistence? The screwdriver of stubbornness? The chisel of cheeriness? The level of light-heartedness? The drill of determination? Enough nails, screws or gaffer tape to keep everything together?

Unless you are extremely organised and have very well-trained kids, I’m willing to bet that some important tools been borrowed, damaged or lost.

I’d love to be supermum, but I’m just mum. I don’t always have the right tools in my toolbox. They go missing in action, or get damaged. But the toolbox is still there. Throughout everything – hurt, worry, fatigue – there is still an overwhelming love for each of my kids. That drives me on. It compels me to hope, to endure, to find things to be thankful for, even if that is gratitude that my basic needs are being met (and think about it – that’s actually a pretty big thing).

Refilling the toolbox

So yes, sometimes my toolbox feels pretty light-on – just like my real-life toolbox! But after a good night’s sleep, I find that the chisel of cheeriness has turned up. One of the kids bounces in the door after school and shares a joke and my level of light-heartedness reappears. After a coffee with a close friend, I realise that I do still have the hammer of hope and the drill of determination. And the pliers of persistence? They were in that load of washing that I finally managed to plough through. As for the screwdriver of stubbornness, I think that it’s the one thing that never goes missing!

My toolbox has been quite battered about over the last few weeks. I feel as though I’ve been making do with the high-heeled hammer and the butter knife screwdriver, because the box has seemed completely empty. But it’s still there – the love is there. And ultimately, everything will flow from that. Because yes, I do think that love is enough, in the sense that it’s foundational. Nothing will come without it – for any of our kids, let alone those with special needs.

These are words of wisdom, whether or not you are a person of faith: “Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13: 7) And now, back to that mountain range that I’m trekking through…

Until next time, may your heart be full even if your tool box feels empty, and …Happy Wombatting!