My dear Sammy,
Today you turn 15. I find it so hard to believe that the screaming, red-faced infant that turned my world upside down is now 15 years old.
You have always been noisy, son, but I think you know that. You always grin when we tell you stories about your epic screaming fit that the staff at Branson Olive Garden probably still talks about, and the time you flipped every switch, spun every dial and pushed every button in Papa Leo's car while he scrambled to control the curiosity that was compelling you to touch everything you could get your pudgy little hands on.
Today it still scares me a little bit when you get quiet. I guess old habits die hard - for about the last 14 years, silence has typically meant you are into something. I have to remind myself frequently that you're not a baby anymore and that silence is okay when you're a dude. Now silence usually means you are drawing up an evacuation plan, sketching blueprints for an underground safety hatch or going over your list of survival supplies. I am totally content to let you prepare to save us all and will give you all the quiet you need to do so. I'm counting on you to be our Darryl Dixon.
You dealt with some heavy stuff in public school and while it was hell while we were going through it, you came out so much for the better. All those horrible days of being picked on and bullied just made you stronger. You took bad situations time and again and learned from them. Of course, you also punched your way to victory a time or two as well. I was totally okay with that. A momma can only take so much.
When you came to me that autumn night at the age of 11 and said that God told you that you were going to preach, I can't say I was surprised. I think every one of us knew that God has had a special job for you from the get-go. When your daddy and I dedicated you to God when you were just tiny, we meant it. And now that we are in our third year of ministry ourselves, we know the hardships, struggles, heartaches and turmoil you will endure. Ministry is not easy. However, we also know the joy, victory, love and satisfaction you will experience as well. and we can't wait for you to experience it all. Even the not-so-fun parts - they make the really cool stuff even cooler. Trust me.
Please don't ever lose your ability to laugh. And the ability to make others laugh as well. Those two things will serve you great purpose. Again, trust me.
As you get older, I get a little more melancholy at the prospect of you growing up and leaving the nest. For some reason, the though of sending Abby out into this world to make her way as an adult, a wife and a mother isn't a stretch for me. But you.....the thought of you not being in that back bedroom full of camouflage, weapons, dirty socks and survival gear makes me very sad. Please don't think that it's a lack of faith in your ability to make it on your own - it's just that you're my baby boy. Just as your daddy is having a hard time letting your big sister go (and will have just as hard a time with your little sister), your mother is having a very hard time watching her little boy grow up to be a man. Be patient with me. Please.
Please know that I pray for your future wife and you already. I pray that you find a girl with a heart for God, a girl God has already set aside to be a minister's wife. She will need to be tough, sweet, patient, gentle, determined and giving, but most of all she must be a servant of God. I have no doubt God already has your path set to cross hers. I hope she likes me, but I hope she loves you more.
Happy 15th Birthday, my sweet Sammy. You drew a rough spot in the family line-up - it cannot be easy being the only boy sandwiched between two sisters with such strong personalities. I have no doubt that this has made you stronger and more patient and infinitely more ornery. All of those are okay things to be.
Never doubt how much I love you and believe in you. And when the zombie apocalypse happens, there is no one else I'd rather have leading me to safety.