First day pictures

Pastoral Messages | September 7, 2016

While I sit in the quiet of my office on the east side of St. Paul, the west side of the building is filled with sounds of children playing and singing. It’s the first week of class for students at the amazing St. Paul preschool. It’s the season of first-day-of-school photos.

In those pictures, children stand on their front stoops with their backpacks. Their faces are full of anticipation and a trace of fear. There’s also some annoyance that their journey to begin this next adventure is slowed by an embarrassing photo opportunity.

The first day of school is a big day, but this photo-taking tradition is more than just marking a particular moment. As parents, there’s something in us that realizes that the minute our kids step into their classroom they are going to change. Their world is about to get bigger. New words and experiences will come their way that we can’t filter or control. Even at the end of that first day, our children will be different.

It’s exactly what we hope for, but we try to stop time for just a second and take a picture.  But it’s more. Those pictures are just the thing to help us notice their growth. In a few months we might look back at those photos and realize how much more confidence they have or how their grin is a bit more mischievous with a tooth missing.

At some point in our lives we stop taking “first day pictures.” But we don’t have to grow out of growing. Learning doesn’t stop when we get our diplomas. If we open ourselves up to it, our world could get a bit bigger every day, too. We can change our minds. Expand our thinking. Deepen our compassion.

So maybe we could start taking grown-up first day pictures, to remind ourselves that regardless of how we spend our days, we have the chance to grow. No matter what we do, we can encounter the day with the anticipation and openness of a kindergartner. Even if we’re doing the same thing we did yesterday, we can step into today with the same kind of courage to learn that kids have each first day of school.

So – tomorrow – on your way to your 896th day as an accountant, or your 3rd day of rehab, or your 1,440th  day of parenting, or your 82nd day of retirement, take a picture by your front door. Mark that moment, knowing you will not be the same when you come home. And step into that day with new courage, open to all that God will teach you.

After all, “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Sara Olson-Smith, associate pastor

6 Comments on “First day pictures”

  • Anna Goodwin

    September 14, 2016 at 8:10 pm

    Pastor Sara, how I wished I would have had this inspiring message to read in June/July, when I was in the hospital. In the list of first day photo opps you included rehab. It made me take pause, and think about how many “first day pictures” I can be taking – and 32nd days, 63rd days and 13,459th days… what a gift. Thank you.

  • Ann Stern

    September 9, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    Great message for us all starting in on a new day! Still remember fondly your first day to meet St. Paul staff and our walk along the Mississippi! How lucky I was to greet you at the airport with that Fall mum. Your ministry blesses us all! Thank you Sara!
    Proverbs 11:25 ” The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed”

  • Diana Holland

    September 8, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    Pastor Sarah,

    Thank you for such a feel good message.

  • David DeWit

    September 8, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    Thanks for your insights, Sara – this one and many others.

  • Don Garrison

    September 8, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    Two week ago, on the first day of school , as I reached the end of the street on my morning walk I saw the neighborhood children, some with their parents waiting for the school bus. As I turned around I announced, ‘Wow, you guys all get to school and learn lots of new things “. The children and their parents smiled and I heard a few ” you bets ” and a “great “. I continued my morning walk home feeling good about the experience. I believe I shall accept your challenge and have the courage to be open to all that God will teach me each day. After all, even after 60 years of marriage, Sally my wife, frequently comments that I am still a ” work in progress “.

  • Nancy Hultquist

    September 8, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    Great message, Pastor Sara!

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