Oh willowy beauty
Unearthing treasures from the sea
A priceless knowing lost in youth
Dark waters engulfed identity

Oh willowy beauty
Extracting courage from your soul
A costly pearl retrieved through loss
Oysters fill with wisdom to cajole

Yesterday, my daughter repeatedly came to my mind. I walked into my art room and the eyes from her self-portrait gazed at me. I took her sketch out of the frame and propped it up on the fireplace mantel. I needed to feel closer to her.


Charcoal Self-portrait by Elya Filler

The sadness in those eyes haunts me. I often wonder if she sketched reflections of her torn childhood into the self-portrait. Yet when I study the form of this young woman, half covered by shadows, I think of the word resilience.


  1. the capacity of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation especially caused by compression stress.
  2. an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change <emotional resilience>

Often in life, we never fully recover from the compression stress of difficult circumstances. The deformities to our identity press us into something new and different—something far more beautiful. Such is the miracle of the oyster. As we seek to soothe ourselves from the irritating sands of emotional and mental pain, an exquisite pearl forms.

The second definition of resilience describes a character trait. Recovering and adjusting from hardship takes time and practice. Elya embodies resilience. She overcame difficulties in childhood caused by her emotionally broken parents, of which I was one.

“Mom, all I can remember from the time you and Dad were married was fighting.”

I also have those vivid memories of her father and me grasping the arms of our children while pulling in opposite directions. I tried to bring them with me and he screamed in panic, “Don’t take my kids.”

I will never forget the fear and horror in their eyes. I searched past the desperation trying to find their souls. And with all of the confidence I could muster, I calmly said, “I will be back! I promise! I will be back to get you.”

Their pleading glances and terrified screams forever branded the cost of divorce into my soul. From that, I will never recover.

Of course, Elya did her fair share of stumbling through school, but this willowy beauty possessed irresistible charm and inner compassion that matched her exotic beauty.

The misfortune of some sends them sinking down, down, down into the depths of despair. Shipwrecked, they never fully recover in mind or soul.

Not Elya, she found a way to grow a mermaid’s tail of resilience and explored her world as if an enchanting land filled with treasure hunting.

Watercolor by Elya

Last October, Elya left on a fourteen month adventure. She volunteered in a poor Cambodian school before traveling through Southeast Asia. From there, she went on to Seoul, South Korea where she has fulfilled eight months of her one year contract teaching English to children from pre-school through middle school ages. The following is a priceless reflection about teaching that Elya emailed me two months ago. When I read these words, I knew she was going to be ok. Elya had finally found her treasure:

“Sorry it has been so long since my last email. Life over here seems to just suck you in until several months have gone by and you don’t even realize it. I’m going on my seventh month of teaching and it feels like just yesterday I was packing my bags to come here.

Select this photo link to read about Elya's story called, Ethos

I’ve learned a lot about things that I never cared about or even thought about before. I’ve learned how to relate with a child.  I’ve learned that every child is different. That kids all have very unique personalities and there is no single right way to help one. Even my preschoolers are so complex. How they interact with each other. From the leader who easily takes control of the class in either a positive or negative way to the shy kid who really hates to be brought into the spotlight.

I’ve learned how to truly care for a child that is in no way blood related to me. It’s a really strange feeling to want someone to succeed so much and be disappointed when they don’t. I feel so invested in their futures and want them to do well. I’ve never had that with a kid. I feel like if anything this experience has taught me how to raise a child.

Elya's Pearls in Seoul, South Korea

I’ve learned that some kids are amazingly easy while others can just be sh—heads. It’s a strange job. Sometimes, the day goes by so easily that I am amazed I am getting paid to do this while other days I want to pull my hair out. Some kids I want to wrap my arms around while others I want to throw out the window. It’s so weird. This is one of the first times I actually kinda feel like an adult. I guess when everyone around you is significantly younger than you it’s hard not to.

I don’t know if I could do this for a living but I couldn’t imagine doing something that didn’t make me feel this way. I feel very good about what I am doing. Even when I hate it, I still feel like I have a purpose. It’s funny because just today Matt, Jesse, and I noticed how our entire conversation centered around our classes and our kids. We always talk about them and I don’t even remember what I talked about before I had this job. It’s funny because I remember you, Bekah, Andrea, and Aunt Gina always talking about your kids and now I understand why.”

8 Replies to “Resilience”

  1. We are glad you are in the trenches shaping lives.

    I think ones impressions on others will never be fully realized–there are powerful messages that teachers have said to me that I am certain they don’t remember, but I do.


  2. I remember you telling me about Elya writing this to you. Such a profound statement she makes when she says. “I don’t know if I could do this for a living but I couldn’t imagine doing something that didn’t make me feel this way.” She has grasped the idea of what life and career is really all about. I love this! It took me waaaay to long to figure this out for myself…..she is so ahead of the game! I wish I could have figured it out when I was her age!
    Good for you Elya! SO proud of you honey! You too Momma! Good job! B


  3. She is absolutely beautiful, both inside and out. So talented – those paintings/drawings – what a gift!

    And you, congratulations for finding ways to work through the hard places of life. Keep going. Keep going!


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