Sand Myrtle, aka Mountain Myrtle (Leiophyllum buxifolium) at Inspiration Point.
Alum Cave Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
© 2014 Kristina Plaas, All Rights Reserved

A friend of mine, Jim Bennett, posted a photo of his wife and grandkids on Facebook this afternoon and indicated he was participating in a Photo-a-Day project for Lent. For some time I have  been fascinated by the activities people engage in before and during Lent, the six weeks leading up to Easter. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I have never participated in any Lenten traditions since they are not a formal practice in my church. In studying the ideology behind Lenten tradtitions, I can see where engaging in a period of preparation for the holiest day in the Christian year has great merit. Last year I tried to do a few things but I confess, I did not fare very well. This year I believe I'll try this photo-sharing opportunity and see what added meaning I can find in remembering the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Jim tells me there is a word associated with each day of the challenge. Today's word is Joy. Moments of pure joy do not happen all that often in day-to-day life. Because they don't happen frequently, when those joyous moments occur, they are especially meaningful. I had one of those moments last May when I achieved a life goal that was very challenging for me. During the time I was nearly bed-ridden with fibromyalgia, several years ago I took up reading, not novels, but the brown Smoky Mountains Hiking book. I read about trails I was certain I'd never hike and wildflowers I never thought I'd see because I was too ill to hike to the places where they grew. And I dreamed. A lot.

High on my list of dreams was to hike the Alum Cave Bluff trail to Inspiration Point where the Sand Myrtles bloom in May. I heard they were spectacular but I had never seen one. I also knew it would require hiking up almost 2 miles with a 1,000+ ft elevation change to get to them. A few years ago the very notion of making the trek was unthinkable, but last spring I committed to do it. I got some new gear that would make the trek easier, loaded my daypack with plenty of snacks, water, and camera gear, and set aside an entire day to make the hike. I went slower than a turtle, savoring every view and moment on the trail, until I arrived at my destination and was greeted by shrubs filled with delicate blooms. Sand Myrtle! I was overjoyed!

Finding joy in life is an important part of Heavenly Father's plan for His children. He wants us to be happy. He wants us to succeed. he wants us to be the best we can be at any moment in time. He wants us to savor the occasional "highs" in life. A favorite scripture verse from The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ teaches this principle clearly: "Adam fell that men may be; and men are, that they might have joy." (2 Nephi 2:25). I have a few other bucket-list hikes I want to make this year, a few more moments of joy to celebrate in the mountains. I can't wait to reach my destinations!

Sand Myrtle, aka Mountain Myrtle (Leiophyllum buxifolium). 
Alum Cave Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
© 2014 Kristina Plaas, All Rights Reserved


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