I grew up enjoying many family picnics, hikes, and Sunday afternoon drives in the Garden of Gods. It remains one of my favorite spots on earth. It has always been a favorite family destination. Thankfully, back in 1908, the area was deeded to the City of Colorado Springs "where it shall remain free to the public, where no intoxicating liquors shall be manufactured, sold, or dispensed, where no building or structure shall be erected except those necessary to properly care for, protect, and maintain the area as a public park."
In the early 80's, after living in Utah for many years, I returned to Colorado Springs as a newly divorced single mom. It was not an easy time in my life for many reasons. I did not have an education and could not find a job that would pay a wage I could live on. I had been through a devastating custody battle that split my family of five children down the middle. The two older children remained with their father in Utah, while the three younger children and I lived in Colorado Springs.
I was surrounded by many loving family members and friends who supported me emotionally, and spiritually during this difficult time. Money was very tight, but there were a few things that the children and I could do that always seemed to make the time we had together special. One of those things that always was hit was visiting the Garden of the Gods on a Sunday afternoon. The kids loved scampering around on the paths through the rocks.
On one of our visits, I recall that I was feeling especially down. I felt helpless, and I seriously wondered if life was ever going to get a little bit easier. In need of some time of solitude, I walked through a part of the park that I could recall from childhood. I remembered walking down this same path on a Girl Scout outing many years before. Lost in thought about happier times in the park, I happened to look at these beautiful red sandstone outcroppings jutting heavenward.
I was alone as I stood in front of this interesting formation. I thought to myself, "I feel like I am between those two rocks. Yes, I really feel like I am between a rock and a hard place."
My eyes did not seem to be able to remain on the enclosed area. Instead, I found myself looking heavenward where the formation seemed to be pointing. Suddenly, the words to a hymn filled my mind and soul. "Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me." Yes, here it was: the cleft in the rock. A visual representation of that place of protection, providence, and safely replaced the old image of being trapped with no way out. I was filled with comfort, hope and much peace.
My life did get better - much better. I was able to get not just one college degree; I ended up earning three. I married a prince of guy who treats me like a queen. I worked in a rewarding and fulfilling profession. My children have made wonderful lives for themselves. I have seven wonderful grandchildren.
This past year, as a family, we have been through more trials than we ever hope to see again. I lost my beloved daughter. All of us are learning to live without Julie's beautiful smile and great personality. We are going through much pain due the breakup of a marriage. I know that at times, I have felt like I was revisiting that metaphoric place of being between two hard places, but truthfully, I have been reminded over and over that the "cleft in the rock" is the safest place to be. Many times all I can say is, "helpless, I look to thee for grace." I hide myself in Him.