Trench: n. A ditch; a long, narrow excavation in the ground. v. To cut deep furrows for protection.

A friend from afar recently touched the deepest part of my heart and as I write these thoughts, I think of her and countless others who find themselves “stuck”.

God only knows what thing drives a person to seek protection in the deep furrows of a trench. My best guess would be grief, loss, health issues, mean people (serial bullies), or any number of circumstances beyond our control. All of the above are things that have driven me to protective places.

It seems a safe enough place, this trench, unseen, removed from the direct line of fire. But that is really the total sum of protection. Rain falls when it will and there is absolutely no way to control the elements. Before you know it, the earth beneath you becomes altered completely in nature, form, and function and what began as solid ground where your feet once stood firm softens to something almost quicksand-like. You know for the sake of basic survival you must move–but simple maneuvers like putting one foot in front of the other now feel labored. This place originally designed for protection is now engulfing you and all the things that brought you here begin to feel like weighted shackles, relentless in their grip, refusing to loosen their hold.

No good thing thrives in a stagnant environment. We were born to keep moving. You have to rise.

You aren’t a victim of circumstance or even mean-spirited people. Victims are defined by those circumstances and are forever haunted by their bullies. A survivor is one who outlasts—outlives.

Determine to find inspiration wherever it can be found. I cop to reading “The Happiness Project” written by Gretchen Rubin. It simply caught my eye in the bookstore. While it isn’t realistic for most of us to spend an entire year testing the wisdom of the ages, it can inspire us to figure out what gives us most joy in this life.

You have to learn how to give yourself the gift of simple treasure. Do something everyday to feed your spirit, mind, and body. The first thing I do when I wake is to look out the window. That is my first gift. I look outside at the new day and see a fresh batch of mercy. I’ve chosen to feed my spirit first. If I write things down, I’m more likely to do them so before I get distracted by work, I will pray. I need that. And when I’m finished talking to God, I will play the harmonica. That’s just me. Those are the things that feed my spirit and having done those things first, I’m ready to face whatever the day might bring.

As you go through the motions of your day, surround yourself with things you love. Listen to music that feeds your soul and light candles for no particular reason. Spend time with people who somehow make you better.

One of my favorite people is a tall-tale-telling man named Arthur. We work together in the warehouse. Yesterday, he reached into his shirt pocket and held out five foil-wrapped Hershey’s Easter eggs. “To keep your strength up,” he told me. He looks out for me like that and there isn’t one day I’m around Arthur that I don’t walk away feeling better. Tall tales and chocolate with Arthur is a sweet thing.

Tonight I watched one of my all time favorite movies. “The Color Purple” is an amazing story about the human spirit. It unfolds and interplays like powerful choreography. The characters are colorful and interesting, yet have deep-seeded struggles. Miss Celie is, perhaps, the most wounded. But here’s what I love: the one constant throughout the story is Miss Celie’s conversations with God. She tells Him everything that is going on with everyone. She is empathetic with no trace of malice even as she’s stuck in a life she would never have chosen for herself. As the years pass, she is witness to her loved ones pressing through and finding joy on the other side of heartache while her own prayers seem unanswered. The awesome thing about Miss Celie is that she never really gives up. She stays busy catching the crumbs that fall from the table because if that’s all she can have, it is what she will take. But the girl knows how to work a breadcrumb better than most people know how to work a whole loaf and when God comes through for her, He does so in a most glorious way.

If all you have to be thankful for today is yesterday’s blessings, give thanks again. You can make a feast out of left-overs. Foil-wrapped Hershey’s Easter eggs still taste darn good in November and I find myself thankful that Arthur buys chocolate after the holidays in bulk so we can enjoy it months later. I wish I had some to share with you right now.

To keep your strength up.