To Be The Joshua Tree

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Originally posted August 2013 on LDS Fitness Network

Ever since I was a child I’ve been fascinated with the Joshua Tree. They remind me of the road trips to Southern California my family would take when I was young. Seeing the trees signified that we were THAT much closer to my Aunt’s house, the beach and of course … Disneyland!

But, I loved the Joshua Tree for other reasons as well. For one they were named after me. Well, technically they were named by a group of passing Mormon Pioneers because the yucca plants reminded them of the biblical story where Joshua raises his hands to heaven in prayer. But, my Dad always loved to point out MY trees as we passed through the mojave desert.

The shape of the Joshua Tree is really a rather odd looking plant. Technically it isn’t even a tree. It’s a yucca plant. And, it grows relatively fast for a desert plant (average of three inches a year), especially within it’s first ten years. The branches are top heavy with a root system that can grow to be quite extensive and deep (as long as 36 feet in some instances).

Since they grow rather quickly at an young age, the Joshua Tree must take root rather strongly in it’s young age or face the possibility of not surviving to maturity. This is not an easy task, while taking root it must withstand the often brutal desert elements. But, if it survives to maturity it can live for hundreds and, in some specimens, thousands of years. (I won’t pretend, I totally took that all off of Wikipedia. But, to my credit, I learned all of that in school as well).

But, one of the reasons why I love the Joshua Tree is that you can apply the story of it’s youth and foundation as parable to life. In many instances we are just like the Joshua Tree. To grow we have to take root with tenacity. We have to survive many challenging situations and if we weather and resist those elements it makes us stronger … and we flourish.

When I started my journey over three years ago I had to take root somewhere. Somehow. I didn’t have a very strong foundation and because of that I couldn’t properly weather the elements. I couldn’t see my true potential. I was blinded by my present circumstances to what my future could behold. Each time I would take steps to improve, I’d get frustrated with my none progress. I had to take root somehow or I knew I’d never be able to do what I need to do to lose the weight.

It wasn’t until I focused on the basics that I truly started to see progress. I also accepted the fact that the goal was progress, not perfection. Perfection weathers no storm, but progress relies and demands storms. Accepting their inevitability as crucial to my journey.

By focusing on eating and working out better each day I was nourishing those roots. My root system started to grow progressively larger. The more focus and knowledge I added to my journey the more prepared I was for storms and challenges ahead of me.

The foundation was set.

Because of that foundation I am able to have something reliable that I can fall back upon when needed. Last year when my Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer I really had to rely on that foundation to emotionally get myself through it. If she was diagnosed a year or two years before I am not sure how I would dealt with her illness? But, I know that food would have probably been a bigger medicine in my life because of it.

Running for her in denim and for donations to the Huntsman Cancer Institute helped me because I was dealing with the situation with that foundation that I built the previous couple of years. But, my running foundation served me well during that time. Whenever I needed help processing what was going on with my Mom … I’d go for a run. I went for a run quite a bit.

But, now when I look at the Joshua Tree I don’t just see a mile marker that signifies Disneyland is getting closer. It’s a kindred friend, because I can relate to it much deeper than just having similar names. I see a plant that has gone through a lot of adversary to lay a foundation that makes it near unmovable. That foundation gives it the strength to progress and get stronger as it ages.

This is why I love the Joshua Tree. Because, I want to be the Joshua Tree.

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