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Note from Carolyn:  I had the very special blessing of being one of the speakers at our Stake Women’s Conference.  My topic was “Filling the Measure of Your Creation.”  When I got there, I wasn’t sure if it was my soon-to-be corrected double vision from cataracts, or a typo, did the program say “Filling” or “Feeling?”  It was indeed a typo, but a magnificent one!  The story below is an important part of my own mortal journey that I hope might be of value to yours, and was prepared as part of my talk.  Thank you for reading it!  Love, Carolyn

I know that this is the first week back at School here in Tennessee.  Who remembers their first day of 7th grade?  What you were wearing?  Do you remember how excited and nervous you were?

Sister Marjorie Hinckley, President Hinckley’s wife, sent this letter to her granddaughter:

Dearest CEDE:  Tomorrow you will be starting out to conquer a new world. Tuck this $5.00 in your pocket! You may need a bottle of glue to keep yourself together or to keep your smile glued on.  Good luck! We are so proud of you!
(From the book “Glimpses into the Life and Heart of Marjorie Pay Hinckley”)

Oh, yes – 7th grade! Of all the times in life when it’s hard to keep yourself together, the first day of 7th grade is at the top of the list! If we were visiting at lunch, we could swap 7th grade horror stories, but let me tell you mine:

Dental problems inherited from my father’s side of the family were beginning to manifest themselves.  My baby teeth had never come out!  In the summer before 7th grade, a clever dentist had figured out that there was an extra set of teeth, just the top four– the ones that show most – blocking the true permanent teeth from coming in. It was very strange and they would need to surgically remove these extra ones.  It was only common sense to believe that the permanent ones could come through: EASY! The only problem was that they couldn’t do the surgery until just a few days before the first day of 7th Grade. So I started that critical time for all adolescents basically toothless, with lots of black stitches. My mom sent me with a can of frozen chocolate “Metrecal” a liquid nutritional drink that would thaw by lunch for my first lunch with 7th grade.  I recall that I had no friends to sit with from Elementary School on that day.  It was a long, difficult day which was the beginning of many long, difficult Jr. High days.

It was 1966 at the time and our family was living in Hawaii. The Jr. High School there started with the 7th grade and ended with the 9th. Unfortunately, there were many very large Polynesians boys – especially the big 9th graders — who took great joy in teasing little me. Toothless, short, already struggling with my weight, it was a time of raw, awkward adolescence that is common to ages 11, 12 and 13.   These kids had chosen a most unflattering nickname for me which was “Pignose.”  I’m not quite sure why, but that’s what they would call and heckle with oinking sounds as I walked up the path to the entrance and it was a very miserable time. 

When it was very clear the teeth were NOT going to grow in quickly, there was more concern, but nothing happened until not only the boys, but the girls too were especially cruel one day.  I was naïve as to what they were calling me, (beyond Pignose) but my Mother understood and arranged that very day for a set of false teeth to be made in the interim.

 It was a new adjustment, but an improvement.  Things went along until a Beehive Scout party on the beach one evening ended up with dentures lost on the beach … or in the ocean.  Who knows?  All that I remember of that evening now are the hysteria with which the Scouts tried to “help” and “look.”  I was a tearful mess when I finally got home.  My loving Mom made sure a new set was quickly made.  It’s a night I am most happy to put in the far distant past! 

We moved back to the mainland after that painful 7th grade year, and I laid low. Working quietly on school and my flute for marching band filled my days and years.  No teeth came in. By my Junior year in High School four to five years later, however, with or without teeth I was starting to spread my wings! I’d auditioned for an honor band with my flute and been accepted! I had a part in the Spring musical! I had no date for Prom, but I, at last, had some good friends.  Life was looking up! 

And then, one afternoon – it all fell apart.  The little dentures were no longer fitting, the teeth were finally starting to move.  An orthodontist had been found. A young and HANDSOME orthodontist, I might add.
On one appointment, my Mom came in with me, which was odd. She usually ran errands and picked us up from appointments like this.  As I laid in the dental chair with the handsome dentist so close, I suddenly knew my life was about to change.

“These have got to go,” he quietly said. “They’re holding back any kind of growth or progress.”  Before my eyes, he quickly snapped the little dentures in half so I could no longer wear them!  Somehow, I held my tears until Mom and I were back in the car.  I will praise the Lord forever for no cell phones that day.  She sat with me in perfect silence, other than my heartbroken sobs.  When they finally subsided, she cupped my face in her hands, 

“Honey, oh honey,” She said in her loving, kind voice. “People get awfully tired of just looking at a person. There has to be SOMETHING MORE”

That’s all she said and we went home, but oh what food for thought it was.  I cried alone some more at home that memorable afternoon, Truly, what was I to do?  Could I check out of life for the next several months or years?

The Spirit began to work its wonders and reminded me I had been diligent in attending Seminary. We had been studying the New Testament, and in my tears and consternation that memorable afternoon and evening, a scripture we’d memorized came to mind:

“ Ye are the light of the world.  Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” MATTHEW 5:23

I stared into the mirror at my odd little toothless smile. I realized that while I did not have those all-important four front teeth, I DID have the GIFT of the Spirit in my life – and a mother without a cellphone who had provided priceless wisdom. I will never forget that conversation with her!  (As a little side message as an adult now: What a message that is as parents and grandparents: PUT THAT PHONE DOWN and look into our children’s eyes!)

Throughout the afternoon and evening I spent more time in the bathroom looking at my mouth. That night in prayer, remember mind that scripture particularly,  and with the Lord as my guide, I decided I would set my little toothless life on a “candlestick” so to speak.

The next day I told my friends I’d been in a “fight with nature and had my teeth knocked out.” That very day I was elected to be the president of our very fun French Club for my senior year! My teeth hadn’t been a deciding factor on anything!  My friends who were truly my friends loved me still. Throughout the rest of the school year It turned out you didn’t need front teeth to play in the honor band, have fun in the Spring musical, carry on with friends.  No, I didn’t go to the Prom like many of my friends, but there was still next year.

As the school year ended in June, my Mom got into FAITH HI-POWER mode for my teeth: we fasted once a week, we read the scriptures, and prayed day and night for my teeth to grow in.

The week before my Senior year, the orthodontist put the bands on my newly grown in two front teeth.  Just two of the four, but was a start!  Not many people are thrilled with braces for their senior year, but I was!  I wore them throughout the year. The other two missing teeth came in.  The braces stayed on and looked like they might for some time.

That summer, our High School Band went to Europe on a marvelous three-week trip. We traveled by bus throughout Germany, Switzerland and France. One of my dearest friends was another LDS young man, not a romantic friend, but a true, life-time friend. As we were traveling one day through the gorgeous countryside, laughing and talking he looked at me and said, “Do you still have your braces?” When I laughed and said, “Of course! I’ll probably be wearing them forever!”  “Oh, he said: “I forgot!”

It turns out my Mom was right – people get awfully tired of just looking at a person. There has to be SOMETHING MORE!  I realized that the scriptures, prayer, faith and trust in the Lord could  and DO work miracles – even get teeth to grow in!

Miraculously, a few days before I went off for my Freshman year to BYU, the braces came off – and I had a pretty smile.  Far more important, I had SOMETHING MORE that has served me well my entire life:  People get awfully tired of just looking at a person! One’s love for the Lord, talents, personality, humor, love, kindness, example, testimony and service are what life is made of.

NOW, I know that EACH of you has experienced something similar, and often during those same years be it a physical challenge, or a health challenge, or a family challenge. It’s been interesting through the years, after I’ve shared this story, what others were going through during those same years.

OH, WHAT A GIFT OUR PROBLEMS ARE!  Without them, we are nothing and we BECOME nothing.

My Patriarchal blessing has an interesting phrase: “As you prepare for your life’s mission, you will be guided to exaltation in the celestial kingdom.”  Listen to that “as you PREPARE for your life’s mission, you will be guided to the celestial kingdom.  That tell me that my true LIFE’S MISSION is not even IN this life!

Meaning, of course, that this temporary earth life really is the LAUNCHING place for permanent, eternal life!

We know that Lord’s way where his measurement of TIME is vastly different than ours:

ALMA 40: 8  “ALL IS as  one day with God, and time only is measured unto man.”  How very precious to know that for HIM: A seed is as perfect and equal as a full-grown flower, a precious baby is as perfect and important as the full-grown adult. “

This is an important, deep perspective to embrace as we realize that he KNOWS us, past, present and future! In his great intelligence, we are ALREADY who we’re supposed to be!  What faith and confidence we can turn to as we embrace his as the wonderful Dad he is, with perfect confidence in our ability to both fill and feel the mighty , magnificent potential of our individual creations.

Many years have passed since that 7th grade year of 1966 in Kailua Hawaii, but it has been a gift all my life for which I’m most grateful in helping me to both FEEL and FILL the measure of my creation.  I gave thanks to my incredible Heavenly Father for the gift of life and for the gift of our problems that help us become who and what we’re supposed to be. 

Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success, One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life. She has been providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success both online and in the Washington, DC community since 1999 presenting for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups. 

She and her husband, Bob, are the parents of five children and grandparents to a growing number of darling grandchildren. They are now happy empty nesters in Jackson, Tennessee, close to Memphis, where they center their online business for an amazing herbal detox, much loved by many Meridian readers: CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE