What If We Let the Spirit Lead?


    Posted on October 10, 2019 by Jenn Zatopek

    What a joy it is to share another article with you; this time it’s on a favorite topic of mine–connection. How do we do we break out of societal norms that keep us apart? Join me as I explore a recent experience on staying open to possibility. As always, I look forward to your thoughts.


    One bright Saturday morning, at the dawn of summer, I got up for work. I donned my signature outfit—black skirt and blouse, bright turquoise necklaces, sparkly sandals—and piled my brown curly hair atop my head in a messy updo. For the finishing touch, I applied mauve lipstick and glittery brown eye shadow and beamed at myself in the mirror.

    It is a spiritual practice to enjoy the body one has been gifted with, and that day was no exception to my daily gratitude practice.

    After kissing my husband goodbye, I drove to work in the next town over and sang loudly to Maggie Rogers from my iPhone—my form of prayer for the day.

    As I pulled into the work parking lot, I experienced a wash of familiar emotions filling my body—dread and patience, compassion and hope. I work at a hospital, in an acute behavioral health unit. In layman’s terms, this means I work with people who are in the throes of emotional turmoil—despair, hopelessness, and suffering are some of my daily companions. As a counselor, it is my honor and privilege to use my body, mind, and soul as an instrument for healing, for instilling hope in others who live on the seemingly dead-end street of desperation.

    I would love it if you clicked here to finish reading at The Glorious Table.


    A Love Letter to the Fatherless


    Posted on June 19, 2019 by Jenn Zatopek

    I have a photo of myself on the property my parents owned in the small country town where I grew up. In it, I’m six years old, excitedly looking down at the pad of paper and pen my father has loaned me. I’ve donned his signature fishing hat and an oversized jacket, which is zipped up to my neck. The sun is out, and in the background are a mop, an air conditioner, and a large green bucket, all nestled next to the off-white mobile home we live in.

    That evening, as the sun made its way across the sky, my father walked me around our property as I made notes of the plants, grasses, and animals that filled our single acre of land. At sunset, I told him happily that I wanted to be a journalist, just like he’d been when he lived up north, doing one of the many jobs he engaged in as a young man—before he became a father. He smiled at my enthusiasm, but he didn’t encourage my writing pursuits. Instead, he said, I was to be a good girl, not a writer.

    I would love it if you would click here to read the rest of the article at The Glorious Table.

    (Photo by Erik Ringsmuth on Unsplash)


    The Sacrament of Forgiveness

    Posted on June 5, 2019 by Jenn Zatopek

    Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are both arduous days for many of us.  For many of my counseling clients, these days triggers a cascade of memories, both joyful and painful.  I’d like to gently remind you that this is normal, and also suggest that taking care of yourself on those days is paramount.

    Please keep in mind that you do not necessarily have to get together with a parent simply because it is a national holiday, especially if that parent has a history of abusive behavior, is not remorseful, and is neither able nor willing to change hurtful patterns of interaction.  Healthy self-love tells us that limiting one’s interaction with family members who engage in hurtful dialogue is crucial to living well.  If family members are neither able nor willing to provide safety and trust, then we need to keep ourselves safe. That is our God-given right as human beings.

    I know this is tough for I, too, would like healthy, safe, and trusting relations with my primary caregivers, but that is not my story.  At least not yet.  Read more


    My Father’s Birthday

    Posted on May 7, 2019 by Jenn Zatopek

    Grief is uncharted waters out in oceanic tsunami waves that threaten to pull us under but will not let us drown. The image of water continues to make sense to me when I think of loss, an ebb and flow of my connection to those I love and miss.  And yet, we all experience grief, at various times, over the course of our lives.  Why was there not nearly enough talk about this when we were kids?

    Back in winter this year, I attended a training on grief and the counselor called it movements, rather than stages, of grief, of how life is a dance and we are constantly moving in and out of connection with our loved one who died. What beautiful imagery! And so freeing too because we are all of us dancing in our lives, some of us more aware of this than others.

    Today is the anniversary of my father’s birthday.  I was hesitant to share anything, but a funny story emerged from the archeological digs of my past.  I share it with you now, in hopes of solidarity and spirit and connection for all those we have called beloved and lost to the unfairness of death. Read more


    My Strange Family Tree


    Posted on April 29, 2019 by Jenn Zatopek

    I sit in my first seminary class on a brisk winter afternoon, ecstatic about the opportunity to learn, listening as the professor begins her lecture. She writes a quote by St. Augustine on the whiteboard: “What do I love when I love my God?” Then, in her lilting accent, she talks about how family is the first place where an individual should feel the force of love.

    As I hear the words about family, time slows down. To ground myself in the moment, I breathe slowly and stare out the window at the yellow cedar tree that contrasts against the gray sky. I know the signs, and I ask my God for strength. I can process later. Now is the time to learn.

    After class, we students all shuffle out rather quietly, saying good-byes in hushed tones. I walk slowly to my car, parked on the far side of the campus, and review my experience. I’m saddened, and I feel that usual sense of distance from others. I also feel a familiar sense of shame for what I do not have.

    It’s the family thing again, isn’t it? I say to myself. Yes, it most certainly is. . .

    I’d love for you to click here and finish reading at The Glorious Table.

    (Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash)


    Why I Don’t Label

    Posted on March 14, 2019 by Jenn Zatopek

    I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about labels and individuals with borderline personality disorder. I don’t like labels. They reduce people to a series of words, and words, as you and I both know, cannot convey the depth that is the person sitting next to you on the airplane, the school bus, the church pew, the temple or mosque, or the counseling office.

    At the heart of the spiritual life, there really are no labels, no “us” versus “them.” There really is only us, human beings doing the best we can. This way of thinking helps me move beyond labels when I work with individuals in counseling.

    Lately, people around me have been saying that folks with borderline personality disorder can’t do this or that because of their disorder. This is just too reductionistic for me.  But I understand their frustrations. I’ve worked with several folks that have this issue, and I can tell you that they are some of the most resilient people that I know. Their histories will stun you with sadness if you have hears to ear and a heart to listen.

    Read more