'Nicole Zinn' tagged posts

Creating Meaning, Embracing Joy: 6 Christmas Ideas from our Family to Yours

They took every single Christmas gift, that night our home was burglarized just before Christmas in 2012. Our house was ransacked… but the memory that stands out to all of us most vividly is all of those Christmas presents… gone.

The following year, 2013, the news came just before Thanksgiving: my husband Brian’s workplace would close its doors in December.

In 2012, when word went around about the burglary, packages, gift cards, and cash gifts began to pour in from friends, neighbors, even strangers. Our own Christmas was so provided for that we had to pass significant gifts on to others with much greater needs than ours. Our kids, though, were deeply impacted by the experience of being on such a bountiful receiving end. “Mom,” declared one of my sons, “I think we’re rich in friends.

In 2013, with discretionary money low, we tightened our belts and exchanged “gifts of service” to each other. We raided the account we have set aside for “giving to others”, and we secretly bought each other gifts like soccer balls for kids in Africa, physical therapy for kids in Eastern Europe, school fees for girls in Asia, tailored as personally to others’ hearts and interests as possible. That Christmas when we exchanged our gifts, our kids declared it their favorite Christmas ever.

2014 was a normal year. The number of gifts under the tree looked normal again. But in my journal that year I recorded this:

“By the grace of God something most not-normal has happened through those last two Christmases — our kids have learned to take extravagant delight in all of the details of Christmas that are NOT about receiving. They have learned gratitude for small things, and the pleasure of seeing others’ enjoyment. And they’ve also learned to receive a gift as it is intended when given… as an expression of the love of the giver — Once again, hard things and disappointments have brought forth fruit that looks like compassion and joy. Lounging on the floor with them, watching this play out… this may just have been MY favorite Christmas.

Christmas for us is not December 25, but a month-long flurry of lights and music that begins officially the day after Thanksgiving and doesn’t end until the sad day when the now-turned-fire-hazard tree finally comes down in January. The Zinns LOVE Christmas. Year after year though, as the planning and the activity begin to kick into gear, Brian and I talk and pray and wrestle with the questions — “HOW do we engage all of this fun… AND help our children to be freed from that icy grip of materialism? HOW do we cut through the exhilarating exhaustion and teach ourselves of the God who speaks in stillness? And HOW do we never, never lose our wonder that Almighty God would take on flesh and draw us near?”

As Pride Month Wraps Up….

I literally fielded this conversation just the other day (and others like it many times before): “I know I need Jesus. I want to be connected to God. But I’m pretty liberal, so… well, obviously you see the problem.” Clearly the man didn’t know me well – and he didn’t know the Bible at all. […]

Favorite Love Tacoma Sunday memory?

Might have been one of our very first Love Tacoma Sundays. Titlow Park. Thirty-ish people, ages 1-70, armed with shovels and hoes. A huge mound of fresh bark. And right at that mound, purple plastic bucket in one hand and a little shovel in the other, 4-year-old Demara leans down from her wheelchair to scoop […]

Yep. Done it.

Here’s the ugly truth: Every time I hear of someone’s disappointment with “the church,” I find myself thinking…  “Ugh, that’s me.” Talked behind someone’s back? I’ve done it. Betrayed someone’s trust? I’ve done it. Helped someone out and made them feel like a “project?” I’ve done it. Acted fake? Lied? Shown favoritism? Been self-righteous? Definitely. […]

In Defiance of Januaries

He found me curled and weeping, my husband did, as he had found me the night before… and the night before… and the night before… through all that endless winter. House around me, a maelstrom of the unguided activity of two 10-month-olds and two 2½ yr olds — my precious children, yes… but my captors, […]

I meant to invite him to dinner. I really did…

I meant to invite him to dinner. I really did. My gentle, old neighbor with the ruined long-term memory, who always smiled enthusiastically but never remembered my name. I meant to invite him to Christmas Eve service. I really did. And I knew that if I extended the invitation, he would come. Truth, though? In […]

Halloween & Jesus: 6 Ideas for Making Halloween Meaningful

Every year we get this strange opportunity… Here’s how the Zinn family does Halloween! ———— Halloween is weird. Cute kids and large quantities of sugar. Yards strewn with synthetic spiderwebs and battery-powered cackling skeletons and gigantic inflatable witches. A background that includes remembering the dead, pacifying ancient Celtic gods, prayer and fasting… and smashed pumpkins. […]

Sermon on the Mount: A Summertime Plan for Families

One of my favorite things about summer is the change of pace that my kids experience. As homework pressures disappear, and the intense schedule of school and extracurricular activities shifts into summer mode, a different side of my children emerges. They get funnier, they talk more, they revive that long-lost interest they had in robotics… or books… or gardens… or stars. They even get to where they like each other better! And I love it all.

We recognized long ago in the Zinn house that summer is a wide-open opportunity for shaping our characters — our own and those of our children. So we begin praying weeks, sometimes even months, before summer hits — “Lord, what are the best ways you want us to use this coming summer? What are the things you want us to learn? What are the memories you want us to make? What are the risks you want us to jump into?

Let’s Do This

Monday evening. Dinner. Our family is together again after a couple of days of quickly moving parts in various directions. We are hashing through the weekend — and my husband Brian pauses, uncharacteristically somber around the eyes: “I saw a theme yesterday.”

“A theme?”

————

Act One: After a beautiful morning at church, we headed to a BBQ lunch at the home of some long-time family friends. They were celebrating the baptism that morning of their 15-year-old son, complete with hot dogs and hamburgers and a house full of people.

Brian met the parents of one of the kids’ girlfriend. Military family. From Texas. Been here six years — and moving back to Texas this summer.

“It’s so unfriendly here. We’ve been so excited to come to this BBQ — like, we’re finally gonna spend some time with people! Can’t wait to get back to Texas and be part of BBQs and picnics and get-togethers with people again.”

Cut.