Dime jars, coloring books, Tupperware containers of crayons, the songs from the album Bullfrogs and Butterflies, the stories from Adventures in Odyssey and The Chronicles of Narnia, plus lots of other cassette tapes (dates us I know) accompanied our cross-state journeys in our bulging Suburban every summer.
The inside of our vehicle was a sight!
Deborah, our fifth, tucked in to her carseat with a “Five Alive” juice box! Apparently she’s the only safe one in our car. (See below!)
(Left to right) Rebecca, Ashley and Samuel all “seat belt-less” in the back of our van. It’s a miracle kids survived 30+ years ago when seat belts weren’t required.
Our youngest, Laura, roaming free in a CRIB we “installed” behind the drivers seat.
Dennis and I enjoyed the Adventures in Odyssey stories as much as our kids. Jimmy and Donna, and Connie and Eugene became friends to our kids. And kind Mr. Whitaker’s wisdom and gentle instruction was just what we often weary parents needed to supplement our own teaching and training of our kids.
Several episodes remain etched in my memory. One was the story of terminally ill Karen, a friend from the kids’ school who confidently shared with the gang at Whit’s End her faith in God’s promises. She told her friends about the future she was anticipating soon in the city foursquare, “for there shall be no night there,” quoting Revelation 21:25.
Another was a hilarious telling of a trip to Hawaii, a bonus won by the kids’ dad for his work. Accompanied by another family they barely knew, the long flight was made all the more adventurous by the quirky wife who assumed it was her right to keep every blanket, cup and magazine on the flight as “souvenirs.” Her antics continued for two more installments giving Dennis and me a nice long break from the constant “are we almost there yet” questions.
But the most life-changing episode for me was the story of the author of the hymn, It Is Well With My Soul. Though I had been in church all my life and knew dozens and dozens of hymns by heart, I had never heard this one before. It is now my favorite and will remain so for all of my life.
Having stood the test of time the words to this song were penned 145 years ago by Horatio Spafford, a successful and well-known lawyer and businessman in Chicago in the late 1800’s. Horatio was also a very good friend and financial donor for Dwight L. Moody, the famous preacher and founder of Moody Bible College, Moody church and Moody Publishing, all still flourishing in the city today.
Shockingly to me as I listened to this Adventures in Odyssey recording with my kids was the string of hardship that preceded the writing of these words. It began in 1870 with the death of his only son who was four-years old. A year later all of his real estate developments and warehouses were destroyed in the great Chicago fire.
Wisely realizing his wife and daughters had suffered deeply from these disasters Horatio decided his family needed a vacation. He booked tickets on a ship to England to join his friend, Dr. Moody, on an evangelistic speaking tour of England. He knew hearing God’s word preached would be healing for their souls.
At the last minute a business emergency forced Mr. Spafford to delay leaving New York as planned, but he persuaded his wife and four daughters to go ahead without him so they could rest and enjoy the beauty of the seas and fresh air. He promised he would follow soon on the next ship.
Nine days later he received a telegram that read, “Saved alone.”
Tragically the ship carrying his wife and daughters collided with another ship on the Atlantic and sank in twelve minutes. All four girls drowned. Mrs. Spafford survived miraculously as a plank of wood floated beneath her unconscious body and kept her head out of the sea.
When rescued and told her daughters were all lost she was in complete despair. Then she heard a voice saying, “You were spared for a purpose.” Then she remembered the words of a friend who said, “It’s easy to be grateful when you have so much. Take care that you are not a fair-weather friend of God.”
As Horatio sailed on the next ship to England the captain came to him when they were near where the sinking had happened. As he stood staring at the waters that claimed the lives of his precious girls he began to rehearse what he knew to be true about His God. He then went to his cabin and wrote these words many of us know so well.
- When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
- Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
- My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
- But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
- And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
If this man who lost all his children on one day could write and believe these words
I knew I too could cling to God no matter what.
Since the day I first heard this story on my kids audio player I’ve needed these words.
Over and over life has brought us trial after trial. Many times I’ve remembered Horatio and reminded myself that God was enough for him and will be enough for me. And with that memory, the words of his song would begin ringing in my mind, returning my focus to Christ.
Several years later I learned that this was also my dad’s favorite hymn. I have no idea why and I wish I had asked him. Some day I will, as Horatio says, when we meet in the sky! We sang it in triumph at his funeral in 2012 knowing he will be forever with Jesus.
So if you haven’t made Adventures in Odyssey a part of your family now is a perfect time to introduce your kids to these stories. And you may be surprised how much you enjoy them too.
Happy summer travels!