Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Quite a woman!

I write this as a tribute to Elly's mother, Jette van der Pols, who was truly quite a woman! Here you see a photo of Elly, her mom, Erin (our firstborn), and yours truly taken in 1970 at our first visit to Elly's birth country - with us in traditional Dutch costume ... and then a foto taken with Elly's mom in October, 2006... when much of what I write below occurred.

As some may know, we've reported that Elly's fomerly head-stong, independent and spiritually reluctant mother went to be with God at the end of March. But, some of you may ask [or maybe you don't], "How do you KNOW that Elly's mom is with Christ?" I hope you don't mind me sharing this story. But even if you do, I will love telling it; because it shows a lot about God's mercy and grace.

Elly's mom (her name was "Jette" -pronounced "yet") was a pip! She was a very controlling woman. Some have used the term "control freak;" but I'd certainly never call my mother-in-law a "freak," that is if, when she was with us, I wanteded to avoid her wrath. Actually, Elly's mom and I got along best being separated by the 4500 miles between us, with Elly and me in Tennessee and with her mom in Holland.

But back to Jette and Jesus. For years Elly's mom thought we had been consumed by some cult with our witness of Christ in our lives. She just didn't get it! God was just not important to her because, as far as she could see, Jette van der Pols could control her life without God. So, she repelled our witness of faith for many, many years. Then, in these last three, or so, years, she had to reside in a wonderful Nursing Care facility near Rotterdam in Holland where she got great care and protection; but where her mind and memory began to fail seriously.

As those of you who've known us for some time, Elly and I went over to visit her mom two or three times per year in these last three years; but as we did, her immediate memory was failing more and more each time we saw her. In this last year or so, she would have trouble remembering that we had kids or that she had great-grandkids. We would show her pictures of the kids and grandchildren at each visit; but then 2 minutes later, she'd ask who were the people in those pictures. But somehow in all of this memory failure, many times her not being able to recognize close relatives who came to visit her, God gave her the ability to retain Elly's personhood as well as who I was. It was fascinating to me that everytime Elly would go off to do something, like go to the restroom, leaving me with Jette alone, she would revert to speaking English with me, somehow knowing (I know it was God's grace) that I didn't speak Dutch well enough to converse with her in her native language. And she always knew who I was in the context of Elly's life (and hers) ... even though she could not recogize close relatives whom she'd known far longer than her daughter's American husband. Go figure; ... God is so good!

Well, through all of this mental deterioration, Elly and I prayed diligently, and with determination, that God, the Holy Spirit, would witness to her mind/heart, somehow giving her a vision of God that we had not been able to in our witness over the years. We prayed that God would give us some sign that she had relented her spirit to His and received the Lord. But year after year, there was no such sign. But in obedience to our Lord, we prayed!

Well, sometime last year, we went to visit Elly's mom; and once again the memory traces were failing even more severely. Elly, spending long hours with her would have to answer the same questions over and over again - sometimes 20 -30 times in an hour. And to be quite honest, we despaired for her soul.

Then, after all those days, weeks, months, and years of praying for some breakthrough, which we had not been able to bring about, Elly was cleaning out her purse one day (which had gotten cluttered with "junk" she stashed in there); and she discovered some programs from church services which were conducted each Sunday by an evangelical mission group in the area (very rare in Holland, BTW!!!). From the staff we learned that she had begun attending these services regularly; and the staff reported that she enthusiastically participated, joining in the singing and responding to the services. Well, that was totally out of character from the Jette van der Pols we knew; and it was encouraging; but it didn't rival the real shocker we got the same day Elly discovered those programs in her purse. As we left and said good-bye to her that day, the very controlling woman I'd always known as one who just didn't need God, asked us, "How can I pray for you?" Then she turned to me and asked - point blank, "What can I pray for you?"
Well, you could have bowled me over with a feather at that moment!? You just can't appreciate how out of character that was for the Jette van der Pols whom we knew; and as Elly and I left her that day, we just knew that God had given us the sign we had asked for, letting us know that Elly's mom had seen - in some very personal way - her Savior; and He had given her the grace to receive Him as her Lord.

BTW, we never heard her mention prayer or God after that; but we saw this formerly dominant woman become a gentle soul, ... a soul that the staff at her residence came to love and be drawn to in her later life. And when she passed on - to Christ WE KNOW - three of those staff came many miles to be at her memorial service - something we learned was very rare in her nursing care facility.

We just know that this was God's way of sealing the truth that Elly's mother was with our Lord as we said "Good-By" to her over in Holland in late March of this year. God is so good when we draw nigh to Him.

I feel so blessed that this is the second parent God, the Holy Spirit, has drawn to our Lord in a mysterious witness which I don't think we can comprehend in our humanity. My mother, after years of witness to no effect, awoke from a coma six hours before she ultimately died; and it "just happened" that I was there praying for her at her bedside; and she told me, "I'm so tired; I just want to go be with Jesus." Then she lapsed back into that coma; and six hours later she was with her Lord ... and I knew it!

So, you can't tell me that prayer for a loved one's soul, even when they seem totally resistant to witness or testimonies, is not worthwhile. Do our prayers automatically seal a lost relative's eternal destiny? Of course not! But God in His foreknowledge will faithfully seal those into His family whom He has so elected; and He simply wants us to trust Him and pray diligently for the souls of our dear ones. So, if you have resistant loved ones who seem lost ... PRAY FOR THEM, asking God, the Holy Spirit to witness to them in ways which you cannot.

That's what I had done for my mother; and that's what we did for Jette van der Pols; and we now know both are with their Lord now in that intermediate heaven; and they await our souls to join them there or to be with Christ in our new, resurrected bodies one day when He returns for His Bride at the wedding feast of The Lamb.

If you read this, thank you for your respect and patience. I just needed to write that as a part of my own grieving process for a woman I fought with and who challenged my faith as a Christian to love the unloveable. Jette van der Pols was quite a woman; and now she is one with us in the family of God.

May God's grace and mercy be praised!!! ... <'BB><