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Lady Lydia Speaks

My Unique Mother
By Mrs. Stanley Sherman
May 7, 2005 - 8:27:00 PM

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There was a time in my life when I believed that I would grow up and "do better" than my own mother, but after reviewing the accomplishments of her life, I've come to the conclusion that I could not do better.

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In the early 1950s, my mother helped my father build a home out of logs that they cut and prepared themselves from a spot in the wilderness. While waiting for the house to be built, she looked after her small children in a tent. That may sound strange to moderns, but it was quite a normal thing for people to do in those days. Besides being a loving wife to my father, she raised seven children and kept them well-nourished and safe.

In all the time we were growing up, she put the fear of the Lord in us enough that we spared ourselves many accidents and tragedies. One memory that makes me chuckle today is when she told us that if we disobeyed her by walking on the highway, she would discipline us. We respected her discipline enough to obey, and later it occurred to me that we weren't as concerned about being hit by a truck or car as we were about displeasing our mother. Because of her careful training, we all grew up around lakes, creeks, and dangerous terrain without suffering serious injury.

My father often had to go a long ways from home to find work to support the family, so my mother became quite adept at looking after the children and protecting her home. One day, she had gotten up early and left the children sleeping in the tent while she tended to something else (probably getting water from the lake), and returned to find the tent on fire. She rescued her children and put the fire out. This was only one of several incidents in which my mother rose to protect us.

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Besides her strength, courage, and determination to do what must be done without complaining, I admired her for the fact that she never made me or the other six children worry about the things that children worry about today. She was aware of the dangers that faced us, but taught us to trust in her and in the Lord. We sometimes heard her praying in her bed at night, and it gave me great confidence to know that, although she was our authority on earth, she trusted in a higher Authority. With God taking care of us, we slept soundly.

Though we did not have a lot of modern conveniences, mother was able to keep the children bathed, clothes laundered, the dishes washed, and the floors mopped. When I was 6, she took an adult-sized coat and cut it down to sew for one that fit me perfectly, without a pattern. When she could, she bartered with other people to teach me things that she thought might be of interest to me. I had a crochet teacher and an art teacher. These were people who lived on other homesteads who knew how to do these things, and she knew how to tap into the sources. My brothers and sisters had similar teachers for swimming and exercise.

Drifting by Harrison Fisher, available from

My mother was a faithful companion to my father and never spoke negatively about him to anyone. We children knew that if we did not cooperate with our mother, she would tell our father, and we would be made to obey. We also knew that we could not work one parent against the other and never attempted it. This was largely due to my mother's respect and courtesy toward my father. Her loyalty to him is one of those things that many people cannot match today. We children knew that she trusted him, and we often observed them taking time for themselves, fishing from the little boat on the lake near the house. That relaxing scene in my mind still gives me a feeling of happiness.

One lesson she taught that I remember best is what is best known as "The Golden Rule." With seven children, she knew that we had to live by this principle, or there would be chaos. She explained it this way: "Don't do things to others that you don't want them to do back to you." She taught us to think about what we were doing and carefully rehearse our words and actions in our minds before finally doing them. We learned to leave a quarrel alone. "Never trouble trouble, 'til trouble troubles you," she said in reference to getting along with our siblings. This taught us the art of peaceful living.

Moment's Peace by Alfred Glendenning, available from

We were often snowed-in during winter months and could not attend church, but she remembered the importance of honoring Christ. She sat us all down at the table and told us to illustrate on paper with crayons the lessons she was reading. While she read the Bible stories of the courage of Jonah, Joseph, Daniel, and Elijah, we tried to draw pictures of them. One favorite lesson that particularly stands clearly in my mind is the story of Solomon and the two women with the baby. I have learned much wisdom not only from the account itself, but from the way my mother told it. Although over the years I've attended many Bible studies and lessons, I remember these early lessons the most.

By her own marveling at the beauty of the lakes and trees that surrounded us, we children learned to love nature and the God Who created it. She would enthusiastically point out to us the colors of a rainbow, sunset, or puffy white clouds in the sky that took on shapes of familiar objects. She taught us to listen carefully to things like bird calls, rain, or wind in the trees. If it had not been for this early training, I would have been lost as to how to teach my own children.

Mother developed the ability to be creative, and she showed us how to do it as well. She believed that "necessity was the mother of invention," which we learned was true. If she had to do without children's story books, she just made up her own stories for us, always with a moral lesson. We learned the folly of being careless, cruel, or lazy through her animal stories, and the joy of being diligent, thrifty, and faithful through her stories of people she had known or made up.

My mother's "can-do" spirit effected me intensely. There was no such thing as "impossible," and whining and giving up was not allowed. She knew how to make things from practically nothing. She showed me how to make my own greeting cards, make a cardboard doll house with furniture from household items like egg cartons and empty packages, make paper dolls and costumes, and many creative things that absorbed my sister and me for hours in contented concentration. One of her maxims was: "Waste not, want not." This meant that if you used every available piece of paper or material instead of buying new, there would be no poverty amongst us, and we would not "want" for anything that we needed. I still try to live this teaching in my own life today.

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When we grew a little older, we heard that other children our age were getting what was called "allowances." We begged our mother to give us 25 cents, which in those times would buy a lot, so that we could have an allowance, too. My mother could not see the sense in this, and said she would think about it. As we kept asking, she appeared to relent, but said we would have to work for the money. She made us pick up every single little piece of paper that we had let fall to the floor while cutting and gluing craft projects, and then made us clean up every tiny little thing we had dropped in the yard, from paper to toys. She then gave us each our quarter. The best was yet to come: She prepared us a wonderful meal, and then charged us each the exact amount she had given us for the food. We all learned a wise lesson from this shrewdness and gave up asking for an allowance. We recognized that our basic care was costly, and we appreciated it more after this incident.

Her garden was huge, as she prepared to feed a family of nine. She wisely put us all to work tending it. If we complained that we were bored, we were sent to the garden to weed or pick berries or vegetables. If we quarrelled with our brothers and sisters, we were put to work sweeping the floor or, again, working in the garden. Eventually, we would catch ourselves in the middle of complaining, realizing that the end result would always be to be sent to work at some useful task. She believed that idle hands would cause trouble, so she kept us busy. We not only had to keep our hands to ourselves; we had to find some useful work for them. Because of my mother's careful and steady upbringing, seven children did less whining back then than one child does today.

Lady in a Garden by Dwayne Warwick, available from

What was really remarkable about my mother is that she was content. She enjoyed every challenge and endured. I am sure she had lonelliness, illness, and anxiety, but she would not burden others with them. Instead, she tried to be an encourager and look on the bright side of life. Mother still has that spirit of hopeful anticipation of the future. Each day is a special gift of God to her, and she relishes it. She believed that righteous living, politeness, respect, and resourcefulness were more important than the esteem of a university degree, a brilliant career, or a high-paying job. Her influence was not lost on me, as I naturally passed them down to my own children. Her children are all more blessed than they can know by having such a special mother. This tribute falls short, by far, of the many accomplishments of my mother that I can only hope to emulate.

Mother and Child, available from

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