Dear Tito and Lili,
Summer is here. Summer. There are so many quintessential childhood moments associated with summer: running through sprinklers, popsicles, sandboxes and swingsets, the feel of grass between your toes, the smell of grass when it is freshly cut. There is a book that I hope you will read when you are older called Dandelion Wine, the last reading assignment of my junior year of high school. Mrs. Simmons deliberately assigned the book at a time when she knew we would all be itching to be outside; she created an experience for us of reading the book with the windows to her second-floor classroom open, the sights and smells of the flowering trees in Senior High's courtyard mingling with the visceral lyricism of the book to create a lasting impression: this is summer. If you could bottle summer for Ray Bradbury, it would clearly taste of dandelion wine. And for several generations of Senior High School juniors, a reading of Dandelion Wine marks the beginning of summer.
We are in those moments right now. "Magical" is a word that springs to mind. It is very likely that neither of you will remember any particular moments of this summer, but I am feeling that visceral joy of sipping dandelion wine (metaphorically, as I'm not sure I'd like it in real life and I'd like for it not to lose its mystique) as I experience summer with my children; and I hope, I so dearly hope, that this summer, and many after it, will leave a lasting impression upon you. The sprinklers. The popsicles. The dogs racing through the grass at the cabin. Evening bike rides to the ice cream store. Trips to the zoo. Drives through the mountains. Garden-fresh veggies. Dinners on the patio. The smiling eyes and laughing mouths of mom and dad. I, at least, drink it in. When you are old and think of your childhood, may all of these indiscernible moments blend together into a glorious memory of the Montana summers of your childhood.
The other night, we forewent the table and laid out a blanket in the grass. E sat in her Bumbo seat, T grabbed occasional bites of food while running to and fro, mom and dad drank wine out of mason jars (this is 2013 and mason jars are all the rage), and the dogs huddled close to the blanket in the hopes of getting a spare crumb (success: they got the last of T's sausage after we abandoned the blanket for the warmer indoors and bathtime). We were tempted to take a picture, but that would have involved leaving the moment to go inside and get a camera. And so we stayed in the moment, trusting that it will blend, in our memories and yours, into the rich tapestry that is our life.
This life will not always be so joy-filled. Our relationship will not always be so smooth. We will face trials together, we will face trials individually. We will face trials from within and trials from without. We will be a source of trial to one another. So I treasure these days for the mirth of a toddler who has not yet known evil, and I pray that these days are laying a foundation of relationship and of joy for the days to come.
The next day, as we ate lunch outside and T played in the sand and the water, we remarked at how the two-year-old's enjoyment of life seems to have no discernible purpose other than joy itself. When he fills a bucket with rocks, he has no idea what he will do with them next: he is filling the bucket because that is what pleases him most at the moment. When the bucket is full, he pauses and ponders... and then he adds water and dumps everything out. Because that is what pleases him next. And HH wondered if there might be some theological truth behind the toddler's actions.
I think it's this: God himself does all things for the pure joy of it. God, the eternally all-sufficient one, who experienced perfect fullness and perfect joy for all eternity past, still saw fit to create the world and you and me simply because it pleased him to do so. Maybe this is an over-simplification of the first question of the shorter catechism? That the primary purpose of all things is to bring God glory? We busy-body adults feel guilty doing something for sheer pleasure; it is not good if there is no assigned purpose. But a two year old brings glory to his Maker -- and reflects the eternal joy of his Maker -- simply by reveling in life itself, in joy for the sake of joy.
Oh, Lord, fill our summer with joy. And when the summer joy wanes, fill our hearts with you, Eternal Joy.