by Rod D. Martin
April 8, 2015

On this most recent of her 29th birthdays, it seems good and right to consider the strong soft wonder of Sherri Martin.

Sherri B&WSherri, born in North Carolina, grew up in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. “A Florida girl” and impeccable Southern lady, she loved Christ from her youth, read Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion at 16, and graduated a full semester early from Covenant College with a high grade point and a triple major.

At Covenant she met and married a man who was not what he appeared to be. She supported him – indeed, in some rather extraordinary ways – through medical school and Naval service. She bore him three children, children I love with my very life and later had the privilege to adopt.

Just as he began to make money, he abandoned her, and the children also. He left her in a house with no way to pay the mortgage. He emptied the joint checking account, later explaining that “if I hadn’t taken it she might have.” She refused to divorce him, keeping her vows even if he would not. He took the opportunity provided by her faithfulness to divorce her in a state with no alimony.

Suddenly impoverished – after years of poverty during his schooling – she took the children and lived for a time in the drafty guesthouse on a friend’s farm. After some time, she returned to Florida. She and the children lived in two small rooms in her parents’ house – rooms that would together almost fit in my office today – for six long years.

Why? To save money. Not “save money” in the sense of cutting expenses, though that was also true. To save money. Because she was building a future.

Before the fall, the children had been in one of the country’s finest private Christian schools. She refused to let their circumstances determine their fate. She put them in a similar school in Florida. She gave up any personal life. She gave up any privacy. She did not date, not once in 13 years. She never took a penny of welfare. She worked three jobs at once, managing an office complex, working as a receptionist in one of its offices, and scrubbing its toilets in the middle of the night, for year after grinding year.

She simply would not be stopped.

The children finished their schooling. None of them became a statistic. They each became highly successful, albeit in very different ways. One of them graduated from college at 19: he is now a Harvard and Yale-trained Mayo Clinic physician. His mama might have had a little to do with that.

But before they finished, she built them a home. They finally moved out of the two rooms. She had, indeed, saved money. She paid the house off in two years.

Sherri & Rod at the Golden GateShe was smart. She was beautiful. She was accomplished in oh so many ways: she even helped found Mountain Top Christian School (later Chattanooga Christian School) and served as its first principal. Even in those most desperate times, she was faithful to her church, teaching children’s Sunday School year after year (I’ve since employed several of the children she helped shape). She never missed a school event; she never missed a ballgame. She was loved everywhere she went, and as comfortable with and as respected by billionaires as by day laborers.

She still is. And by no one so much as I.

Her children rise up and call her blessed. Her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done well, but you excel them all.”

Give her the fruit of her hands, and that many times over. And let her works praise her in the gates.