Mining the Digital Depths of Friendship

    A woman texting on her smart phone.


    Posted on November 2 by Jenn Zatopek and Tabitha McDuffee

    In my early teens, I (Tabitha) started making friends online. Before Facebook, Instagram, and ages before anyone recorded a Tik Tok dance, I was active on a popular forum for zealous evangelical youth. We were Christian teenagers eager to “do hard things” and change the world. Many of us were homeschooled and had few opportunities for friendship beyond our generously sized families.

    Eventually, I became part of the forum’s moderating team and I started spening hours every week on Gmail’s instant messenger bantering back and forth with the other moderators. Our friendships developing through lively discussions about missions, evangelism methods, and the merits of Calvinism or Arminianism. You may expect me to tell you that these friendships could never be “real” or that because they were digital they went wrong. But that’s not my story. Almost ten years after meeting on that online forum, two of those forum members stood up as bridesmaids at my wedding. . .

    I’d love it if you clicked here and read the rest over at Fathom.

    Image: from Unsplash


    The Gift of a Garden


    Posted on October 22, 2021 by Jenn Zatopek

    As autumn arrives, I reflect on the past year and how beauty has saved me. What comes to mind first is not the church (though I am grateful for her fellowship and sacraments), but the accidental garden in our front yard. The goodness of God is cloaked in mystery, which became apparent in the unexpected gift of a family garden we never intended to plant. God has marvelous plans for us, which involve healing and restoration, not only of our tired and weary hearts but also of the land and our kinship to it.

    Our garden came to us through fatigue and a forgotten check. One lovely spring day, I canceled work, my body needing a break from the ongoing stress of counseling deeply depressed college students. After a timely massage, I drove to the garden store and . . .

    I’d love it if you clicked here and read the rest over at The Glorious Table. 

    IMAGE; Lavender petunias and white alyssum in a hanging basket by Jenn Zatopek.


    The Smallest Possible Thing


    Posted on September 5, 2021 by Jenn Zatopek

    While out hiking New Year’s Day on the grassy prairies of the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma, I saw a small toad in a slender crevice of water. The long narrow pool of water was ensconced between two gabbro rocks, solidified roots of ancient volcanoes, formed eons ago when tectonic plates wrestled together on the earth’s shifting surface. The creature had burrowed itself into the grimy sand below the still water and blew bubbles, forming a creamy foam circle the size of a child’s thumb on the water’s surface. . .

    I’d love it if you clicked here and read the rest over at Bearings Online at Collegeville Institute. 

    (Image: The grassy plains of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge by Jenn Zatopek)


    Neuroscience Approves of a Holy Imagination

    Cloudy blue sky with distant mountains


    Posted on June 29, 2021 by Jenn Zatopek

    Last June on the eve of the summer solstice, I tasted heaven on earth while vacuuming the back bedroom.

    It was before dinner when I stole away to vacuum the house while my family finished cooking dinner. Beginning in the living room, I noticed the handmade wooden shelves my husband created, the setting sun blazing through open shades. As I vacuumed the small bedroom, I entered a little sanctuary: evening light poured onto the creamy quilt on our bed as indigo and lavender filled the darkening sky. I noticed The Lovers painting by Marc Chagall hung splendidly above the bed while the tops of the wooden dressers on the opposite wall held beloved treasures. I paused to examine my labor, and light was all I saw. . .

    I’d love it if you clicked here and read the rest over at Fathom. 

    (Photo by Zack Smith on Unsplash)


    How to Be a Lighthouse

    An image of a lighthouse on a cliff near the ocean on a sunny day.


    Posted on June 29, 2021 by Jenn Zatopek

    This story begins last year, the year of the novel coronavirus and racial awakenings and climate change prophecies that have marked all of us. On a summer day in our Texas town, with the heat so intense the locals call it “hair dryer weather,” I made a decision to purchase a Black Lives Matter yard sign. It has the famous slogan in a bright white font surrounded by other statements in primary colors that speak of justice and mercy and love, echoing the words of our Old Testament prophets. . .

    I’d love it if you clicked here and read the rest at The Glorious Table. 


    How to Be Still

    A Monarch butterfly in lavender flowers against a blue sky.


    Posted on April 2, 2021 by Jenn Zatopek

    I am honored to share another essay with you on the power of rest from overwork. How do we unhook our identities from what we do as humans and sink deeply into our own worthiness as eternal, spiritual. beings? Are we solely our output? Does working nonstop help us live fully awake and alive to the endless possibilities around us? Join me over at The Glorious Table as I explore this important issue. And may you have a safe, peaceful, and nourishing Easter and Passover weekend.


    On a cool fall afternoon at the end of a long week of work, I stumbled upon a story from a popular online Christian magazine that reminded me of trouble from my ancient past: recovery from depression as a pastor’s wife. As I read, unease grew in my belly. Twenty years ago, as a new Christian, a greenhorn in the faith, I longed to be in full-time ministry. After all, I was a brand-new convert, cared deeply about others, and wanted to save everyone I met. . .

    I’d love it if you clicked here to read the full essay over at The Glorious Table. 

    (Photo by Justin DoCanto on Unsplash)


    A Love Letter to the Lost


    Posted on January 19, 2021 by Jenn Zatopek

    I am thrilled to share my latest essay with you now, a book review of The Long Night, a memoir on depression recovery by first-time author and pastor Jessica Kantrowitz. Given the constant barrage of stress we all face amid surviving a global pandemic, the fallout of white supremacy, and more, I can, without any doubts, highly recommend this book. It is both a literary memoir and a thoughtful resource for persons of faith struggling with depression.


    Pastor and first-time author Jessica Kantrowitz has written a soulful manual for surviving depression and chronic illness. I wish this were required reading for all to help dispel the terrible myths about depression that poison our beloved community. Her artful memoir “The Long Night” tackles a difficult subject with warmth and deep compassion, filling a great need for the lost and despairing among us. . .

    I’d love it if you clicked here to read the full essay at The Presbyterian Outlook

    (Photo by Christian puta on Unsplash)