Finding Joy & Avoiding Regrets

Hey y’all! This is the text of the talk that I gave in church yesterday. It’s about…..well actually you can read it! And about the feature image….I needed a horizontal photo that hadn’t been used yet.

— Lisette

This message has been approved by Vanessa Oler.

Good morning! Let’s start off with a few questions:

  • Did you notice the small things yesterday, like the warmth of the sun or the wind in your hair?
  • Did you tell your family you loved them? Your friends you appreciated their friendship?
  • Did you worry about something that is in the future?

If you are like me, then you probably worried about something in your future and didn’t notice the warm sun or maybe you forgot to tell your parents or siblings you loved them. All of us at one point or another have done or forgotten to do the aforementioned things.

That brings me to two General Conference talks that I think go beautifully hand in hand. The most recent one being President Uchtdorf’s talk entitled “Of Regrets and Resolutions” from this past conference and the second one being “Finding Joy in the Journey” which was given by President Monson in October 2008.

In President Uchtdorf’s talk he tells us of three regrets the terminally ill usually have:

  1. The wish they had spent more time with the people they loved.
  2. They wish they had lived up to their potential.
  3. They wish they had been happier.

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines happiness as a “state of well-being and contentment”. But do we actually ever realize that we are happy in the moment or are we, as President Uchtdorf said “…caught up in the illusion that there is something just beyond our reach that would bring us happiness…” I would say both. There are times when we are saying to ourselves “I can’t wait to get a job and get married, and then I’ll be happy,” and then there are times when we are perfectly content with what we are doing at the time and who we are with. I think, no I know, when we find those moments that’s when we are truly happy.

With that being said, happiness is not just being happy with where we are but where we can go. A well known poet by the name of William Butler Yeats once said, “Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.”

That may sound contradictory, it did sound so to me when I wrote it, but if you think about it, we are constantly growing therefore we have the possibility of being constantly happy.        We are “in charge of our own happiness” whether we are growing at the time or not.

I wish I had handled change better. Change is not one of the regrets President Uchtdorf mentioned but one I have added from my experience, do keep in mind I’m not dying, but I think it still applies. In President Monson’s talk he says “Time never stands still; it must steadily march on, and with the marching come the changes.” He said changes can be sudden, like the passing of a loved one, but most of the time the changes are subtle and slow. I’ve come to know that the lessons we learn from the changes in life are some of the most profound. I’ve learned that when I don’t have my sister to lean on because she is on a mission, I have the Lord. I’ve learned that some friends leave because they were meant to be a part of a certain time in my life. These lessons, as President Monson says, “are lessons that help us distinguish between what is important and what is not.”

President Monson also said a few paragraphs later that “stresses in our lives come regardless of our circumstances,” and that those stresses, those changes, bring to light the important stuff which is usually the people around us. Our friends. Our family. We should tell them we love them. We should tell them that we appreciate what they do for us. And we should spend quality time with them.

That brings me back to one of the regrets that President Uchtdorf spoke of. Not spending more time with the people they loved. Last year for Christmas my grandmother gave my family the opportunity to go to her time share in New Braunfels.

Now if you don’t know anything about New Braunfels, you should know that it’s more of a summer town where floating the Guadalupe River is what one does there, but as I said we were going there for Christmas. Knowing that it was a summer town, we were at a loss for what to do during the colder months of the year when floating the river was not an option.

My mom wasn’t too keen on going but she decided that she was going to be happy whether she liked it or not. When we she found out that she would have a Nook to take with her she was ecstatic. Now she could sit in the cabin and read while my dad and I went off to explore the near empty New Braunfels.

One day we decided to go to the Natural Bridge Caverns a few miles away and drug mom along. Needless to say my mom wasn’t too happy about that, and she was resolved to sit on the surface while my dad and I went on the tour beneath her. Eventually she caved and decided to come down with us. As she tells me, she was really happy about that decision because she was able to see my dad and I in all of our photographing glory.

It was one of the best family vacations we had ever taken. We were able to spend time with just the family. There wasn’t anyone calling to come over or ask us to help move someone. It was just us and there was no expectation that we did anything terribly productive.

President Uchtdorf said “Let us resolve to cherish those we love by spending meaningful time with them, doing things together, and cultivating treasured memories.” Think of the memories that my mom would have missed if she had stayed on the surface instead of coming into the caverns with us.

In closing, let us choose now to be happier, to accept the changes thrown our way and to spend more time with the ones we love. I promise you that by spending time with loved ones and accepting change, you will be happier. I also promise you that when you come to the point in your future where someone asks you “Did you find happiness?” you will be able answer with a resounding “YES” instead of a regretful “No”. I say these things humbly in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


The Very Last One

A few things:

1. The next post (if I can remember how to do it) will be a slideshow of photos from her mission including ones she sent me last night. They most likely won’t be in order because I don’t remember what order she sent them to me in.

2. The post after that will be a guest post by ME! So technically this post (the one below) is Vanessa’s last post.


Well… next time you hear from me, I’ll be just a regular person.

I thought about sending some big “this is the secret to missionary work” or “this is what I learned on my mission” summary report… but then I realized my mission isn’t over yet! Yes. 😀 So, that really profound-type email will have to wait.

But other than that, I don’t think I have too much to report. The work is plugging along, progressing by leaps and bounds. My companion is incredible. In the last three weeks, I’ve seen her take on seemingly unsurmountable odds and come through with flying colors. She’s really come into her own and I love sitting back and watching her just go. Yesterday at church, she was flitting about taking care of people and setting up appointments and getting referrals right and left while I was just posing for pictures. 😀 When she first arrived in Xinzhu, she was an overwhelmed little missionary. Now she’s single-handedly running the most difficult area for Sisters in the whole mission. That’s my girl!

I spoke in church yesterday, three times. In two Wards, I was a scheduled speaker. I cried.

…. There’s, I think, too many emotions to really put into words. Especially these last few weeks. I’m spending as much time enjoying it and living it as possible… and figure I can write about it later.

Just know that I know the Gospel is true. The Book of Mormon is the word of God and is the best way to know who God is and feel His love in your life. Obeying commandments brings blessings and helps us progress toward perfection. Relying on Christ’s Atonement every day is necessary to living a full and balanced life, one with hope and happiness. I love Taiwan and I’m eternally grateful God gave me a second chance a life — and saved all these incredible miracles for a time that I was prepared to appreciate them.

Study the Doctrine. Trust the Spirit.


Sister Oler

Is this what it feels like to be 110 years old?

In my memory, there are really on two things that happened this week: 1) nursing a massive ear infection 2) a two-day conference. While it sounds like the dullest week of anyone’s life, let alone a missionary in Taiwan it was perhaps the most spirit-filled and most productive week of my companion and I’s life. 😀 A tangible shift was made this week and one that was only made possible because I was out of commission. What’s the shift? My companion is now ready to be in XinZhu without me…. and XinZhu is ready for me to go. I remember my trainer saying she could feel “the mantle passing” and I keep coming back to that descriptor. There’s no other way to say it. It’s not sad… actually, it’s the opposite. It’s exciting to see the rising generation come into themselves and be able to run faster and work smarter than the rest of us old-fogies. 😀

So, here’s a toast to all the missionaries headed home this transfer: don’t get hung up on this being “your” area. It’s the Lord’s area and He’s planned it this way. Spend your last three weeks making sure your companion has all the tools necessary to be better than you ever were. 😀 Takes humility and patience, but you can do it. Promise!

*hug* See you in three!

Sister Oler

Making up for last week…

So, last week was short… hahah! Here’s something from President Day for y’all while I work on the report for this week. Enjoy the language study opportunity. 😀

Finding Joy in the Journey/在人生旅途上找到喜樂
I want to share with you parts of the talk I gave at the fireside tonight. It was based on President Monson’s October 2008 conference talk, part of which was shared in the video tonight:


Throughout our lives, we must deal with change. Some changes are welcome; some are not. There are changes in our lives which are sudden, such as the unexpected passing of a loved one, an unforeseen illness, the loss of a possession we treasure. But most of the changes take place subtly and slowly.

President Monson said, “This is our one and only chance at mortal life—here and now. The longer we live, the greater is our realization that it is brief. Opportunities come, and then they are gone. I believe that among the greatest lessons we are to learn in this short sojourn upon the earth are lessons that help us distinguish between what is important and what is not. I plead with you not to let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that illusive and nonexistent future when you will have time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now.”
多馬‧孟蓀會長 說過: “而我們在世上的唯一機會——就是此時此地。我們活得越久,就越了解人生短暫。機會來了,又走了。 我相信,我們在這趟短暫的人生旅程中要學習的最重要課題, 就是學會分辨哪些事重要,哪些事不重要。我懇請各位不要對未來抱持不切實際的幻想,以為將來會有時間做自己想做的一切,因而錯過了最重要的事情。正確的作 法是,把握現在,在人生旅途上找到喜樂”
There is no tomorrow to remember if we don’t do something today.

Stresses in our lives come regardless of our circumstances. We must deal with them the best we can. But we should not let them get in the way of what is most important—and what is most important almost always involves the people around us.

Our realization of what is most important in life goes hand in hand with gratitude for our blessings.

Jesus taught us how to pray. He taught us how to serve. He taught us how to live. His life is a legacy of love. The sick He healed; the downtrodden He lifted; the sinner He saved.
耶穌教導我們如何禱告、如何為人服務、如何生活。 祂的一生就是愛的傳承。祂醫治病人,鼓舞受壓迫的人,並且拯救罪人。
The time came when He stood alone. Some Apostles doubted; one betrayed Him. The Roman soldiers pierced His side. The angry mob took His life. There yet rings from the cross, His compassionate words, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

Who was this Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief? Who is the King of glory, this Lord of hosts? He is our Master. He is our Savior. He is the Son of God. He is the Author of our Salvation. He beckons, “Follow me.” He instructs, “Go, and do thou likewise.” He pleads, “Keep my commandments.”

Let us follow Him. Let us emulate His example. Let us obey His word. By so doing, we give to Him the divine gift of gratitude.

As we rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, He can help us endure our trials, sicknesses, and pain. We can be filled with joy, peace, and consolation. All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

We can happily endure to the end.
我 們都會快樂的持守到底.

Let us find joy in the journey.


Sister Oler 😀


I have less than a minute!!

BUT!! This week has been all about being an example of the believers. Check your testimony before you go about sharing it with others. Is it strong enough? If not, fix it first… then sharing it with others will be 100% more productive. 😀

Love ya! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!! Don’t expect to be in touch with me on Facebook until mid-February. 😀

Sister Oler

Merry Christmas and Happy End of the World

Is it the time difference? I thought the world was supposed to be kaput by now. Or maybe the weather man got it wrong again…. ah well! We’re all still here in Taiwan and livin’ up the Christmas holiday. 😀 This week has been a crazy mess, but it all ended up in a great place… with everyone feeling the Spirit and being together as a family.

Last Monday we got together as a Zone and put together three pieces to perform at a mall in XinZhu. Apparently, every year the Church gets invited to perform the Nativity. And this year they invited the missionaries to be a part of it. President Day said we could get the whole Zone involved… yay! It was so moving to stand in front of a choir of missionaries and feel their testimony and conviction weave through the lyrics. Even in practice, you could feel that this is a good, strong group of missionaries. We were all a little worried about having only one day of practice five days before the performance, but it worked out beautifully. I was so proud of them, all, last night. It was FREEZING, but they stuck it out and I’m still hearing about miracle contacts from last night. 🙂

We had a new convert with her son and son’s friend, an investigator family, and one of our new investigators all in attendance. You could just tell they were loving it and most importantly, loving being there together with friends and family.

My favorite part, though, was the night before. All three wards came together for a dress-rehearsal/Primary program. The Chapel was overflowing and kids were running around like mad. It felt like everyone was hanging out at Grandma’s house… I’m not sure how else to describe it. Just beautiful and warm and like home. It was the best way to celebrate Christmas. 😀 The kids from Zhu1 stole the whole show — with their performance of The Little Drummer Boy. I’ve never seen a more legit Primary program in my life. Don’t worry, there’s video. It was all instrumental and every little kid had an instrument — from recorders to castinets to violins and violas to piccolos, etc. It was so beautiful!!

Tuesday and Wednesday were a mess. Let’s just leave it at that. Thursday morning, we got a fresh start and went to go visit the cutest little old lady. She’s a gem and so happy to see us, to sing with us, and to read about the birth of Christ. Then, the sweetest phone call came: “there’s packages!!” We met up with our Elders at a member’s house and tore into several boxes like it was… I dunno… Christmas morning. 😀 That was a great pick-me-up!

The best part of any week has got to be Sunday, though. Two fun suprises: the Chen’s from Tao Yuan and Sister Dao from Houston were at church on Sunday. It was so great to see them all and be reminded of how small the world really is. We had a great time catching up and they were all excited I was still in Xinzhu. 😀

I hope everyone has a great Christmas!


Sister Oler

Re-Capturing the Christmas Spirit

It seems the beginning of December, everyone’s really excited for Christmas and pumped for an extra measure of kindness, gift-giving, service, etc…. but as soon as we get into the late-teens and early 20s of December, everyone starts freaking out. Y’all all know this is true. And we’ve felt it here, even in the mission field. Trying to schedule appointments, dinners, FHEs, splits, etc. are all a no-go until after this coming weekend. My companion and I trying to strike that balance between staying low-key and getting work done. The conclusion we came to this week: re-capture the spirit of Christmas through service.

We had dinner with a foreign family in our Ward this week. Burritos with sour cream…. strangely, I never liked sour cream when I was in the States. But after not having it for a year and a half, I’m suddenly in love with it. I dreamed about it last night. Weird. 😀 Their daughter is trying to decide on whether to go to college first or go on a mission first. She’s prayed about it pretty fervently, and the answer she’s gotten is that either would be great for her. SO! She asked us if she can come out with us and be missionaries. She’s got plenty of time during the day and we need to be able to go on splits more often… answers to prayers! She’s even down with riding a bike in a skirt. Double win. 😀

There’s a family in one of our wards who are all members, sealed in the Temple, but recently the dad has not been wanting to come to church. The Ward Council is worried about them, and asked us missionaries to go over and see where we could help. We tried to set up with the mom a few times, but the Saturday night before she’d always call and cancel. Finally, we just told the Elders we were going to go anyway…. and to find a good excuse. Like caroling! 😀 It was the perfect set up. We biked all the way up the mountain on a prayer and a hope that we could get into their house. Worked like a charm! We kind of split up and helped each of the family members address their concerns, issues, stresses, hopes, expectations all individually. It was a great start, and as we left the family was preparing to make a ginger bread house together — the first time they’ve really spent time doing something together as a family in a VERY long time. It was a beautiful feeling.

We were supposed to have a baptism this week… but after her interview, she realized she believed it all but wasn’t quite ready to live it all. We gave her some time this week and have been praying and fasting for her. This is something I feel strongly about — people being able to stand on their own testimony before being baptized. That’s what makes the difference between a real convert simply a baptism. As a missionary, I’ve come to feel the difference between people with real desire and real intent and those who might not have it yet. There’s plenty that missionaries can do to help everyone understand the doctrine and how it applies in their day-to-day life… but the wanting to actually apply it is all on the investigator. Truely prepared investigators should be calling the missionaries and sharing what they’ve learned, should be wanting to come to church all by themselves, should be actively involving themselves in other member’s lives… etc. Any sense of doing those things out of obligation to missionaries is not healthy and not a solid foundation for a testimony. So, when I realized that she wasn’t going to be baptized this week, I got on my knees and asked God if He wanted her to get baptized this week. He said no, and let me see very clearly what I could do over the next few weeks to remind her of the testimony she already has. I felt at peace about it and discussed it with my companion. We are continuing on that path — obviously, we’d like her to receive the blessings of baptism… but we also recognize that time and agency are not things we can control.

One of our investigators is the recent boyfriend of a member. He’s an atheist… or, was a few weeks ago when he agreed to start meeting with us in an effort to better understand his girlfriend’s religion. Yesterday, I had a good talk with him about why he’s coming to church. His answer was completely different than the first time I asked him this question (last transfer)…. he’s now coming for himself. He’s heard things he likes and wants to better understand why he likes it. What a GREAT change! This has only been made possible by our great members taking care of him at church, using their own lives and their testimonies, and being able to hold up to really close scrutiny. That testimony is developed through daily prayer, scripture study, weekly family home evening, obedience and respect for their covenants. I love our ward members so much and I’m so proud of them! I’m not at all worried about this stake going into the next year, as each ward has this idea at the root of their ward mission plans: first solidify your own testimony, then help your friends feel the Holy Ghost / see the changes this Gospel has brough to your life, make a natural and appropriate invitation for them to come into the fold.

This whole week, the only question I’ve gotten asked is “are you going to be here until you go home… or not?” Well… I finally have an answer! I survived my last move call and I will stay in XinZhu with Tsai Jiemei. GREAT news! But as soon as everyone knew that, they started scheduling “the last time” with me. So, to put it simply, all dinner and lunch time is already scheduled out for the next six weeks. HAHAH! But, I noticed a change in the converstation. This time around it’s not just “I want to feed you” …. it’s become “I want you to come over and meet a friend of mine, we can probably all eat dinner together.” It’s GREAT! I’m no longer having to ask them if we can bring someone, or if they can think of a non-member to invite. They’re doing it themselves! XinZhu is the best. 😀

Recently, I asked President if I could read The Miracle of Forgiveness during personal study. He just chuckled and said yes… and I could probably pick up an English and Chinese copy and read them together. (mmmmmmmmm… up for a challenge? yes.) Unfortunately, English copies are scarce so I haven’t found it yet. But I have been studying on my own more about the Atonement in terms of forgiveness and the faith it takes to completely the repentance process. Jury is still out on solid conclusions and profound snippets to put in an email home… but it’s providing good food for thought while we’re biking up and down mountains.

The Baptism that Wasn’t…. ? A set of Elders in one of our wards was supposed to have a baptism this week. The kid passed his baptismal interivew, but his parents still hadn’t signed off on the permission slip. They were still planning on a bit of a hail-mary-pass in going to meet with the mom at 6pm, having the baptism scheduled at 7. Through a series of events, it got sorted out that mom totally supports the church and the message, but hasn’t seen the necessary changes in her son to make her believe he’s actually doing his part. The lesson turned into the missionaries and the mom they were all on the same page and the son just needed to get in gear. 😀 A great moment for them! But, that left my companion and I sitting at the church a) waiting for the verdict b) scrambling for a back-up plan. The day had all been tied up in coordinating this baptism and then un-coordinating it, then turning it into a fireside… then not. When we realized nothing was going to happen at the church that night, we called investigators, less actives, members, everyone we could think of to fill the hour we had left. We went out finding for a bit, with no success and ended up back at the chapel. We finally decided to say a prayer. Amen was said and we both realized that there were some people in the church building and we didn’t know what they were doing. We went in to check it out and saw it was the Bishop and the Young Men working on props for the Christmas pageant this coming Saturday and Sunday. We offered to help and were welcomed with cheers! The other missionaries originally involved in the baptism ended up joining us and reporting the investigator and his mom’s progress (she is now their new investigator, by the way!) to the Bishop. The whole feeling was wonderful — filled with love and service and productivity. We had a chance to really help the youth of the church bond with each other, talk about how to invite their non-member parents to the Christmas activities coming up and get to understand their parent’s original reasons for letting them all be baptized. 😀

Ohyeah…. and today for Pday we got the Zone together and practiced for our performance coming up on Sunday night. The missionaries sound SOOOO good! They’re all an incredibly talented bunch and I hope someone’s recording this whole thing so that one day y’all can see it.

Merry Christmas to everyone!


Sister Oler