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    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

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    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

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    My Strange Family Tree

    {GUEST POST FOR THE GLORIOUS TABLE}

    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)

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    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.

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    The Doorway

    Posted on February 21, 2019 by Jenn Zatopek

    Yesterday, I sat with my spiritual advisor and and discussed the various issues that are causing me suffering right now. He made a stunning comment, suggesting that my emotional turbulence for the past several months is due to my heart breaking open.

    At the mention of that phrase, I immediately recoiled because I do not want to keep breaking apart. But he insisted, stating that this is the part of the transformation process. He said “Jenn, you are not breaking apart but breaking wide open.” What a grand metaphor for growth and goodness and healing!

    What I am coming to comprehend is that the act of submerging my emotional pain for so long has cost me joy and peace, making it difficult to live fully in the freedom of Christ. For many years, decades really, I numbed my feelings through busyness, church activity, television, sex, relationship obsession, reading, and focusing on the sins of others.

    But that isn’t how I want to live anymore.

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    Something I Carry

    {GUEST POST FOR SHELOVES MAGAZINE}

    Posted on February 4, 2019 by Jenn Zatopek

    What an honor and privilege it is to be over at SheLoves Magazine today, sharing some of my experiences on overcoming grief and loss. I hope you’ll enjoy reading the essay as much as I enjoyed writing it!

    ***

    I don’t know when the depression started. Did it start during the seemingly interminable winter months when I could barely get out of bed before 9 o’clock in the morning? Or did it start before then−during the holidays with new schedules and more family visits and less time for myself?

    The answer is a mystery. What I recall is that I was deeply depressed during the winter months. Each morning before work, I crawled out of bed and went to the kitchen to fix breakfast. I made my way to the front room to pray, but wept instead. I provided counseling to others and tried my best to be of service. I slept on the office couch during the times when folks cancelled, praying to God for help, for strength, for anything that would help me find solace and hope during those lonely moments. . .

    I would love for you to click here and finish reading at SheLoves Magazine.

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    In the Silence of the Night

    {GUEST POST FOR THE GLORIOUS TABLE}

    Posted on January 31, 2019 by Jenn Zatopek

    It is truly a joy to be over at The Glorious Table today and share with you about my own struggles with sleepless nights and how I encounter God’s compassion in the midst of them.

    ***

    I wake early again and toss and turn in my bed for a while. I can tell it’s early morning because no sunlight is streaming in through our bedroom windows—and I am groggy. I try to fall back asleep, staying still in my warm bed with my husband lying quietly next to me, but it’s no use. I can’t keep my brain from whirring with thoughts that clamor for attention.

    I do the only helpful thing to do: I slowly make my way out of bed and wend my way to our little study to pray. The cold north winds rattle the window panes as I carefully navigate through the darkened house. I settle into the armchair with an afghan and a purring cat, and then I sit in the dark. I have learned that turning on lights keeps my brain wide awake. What I need right now, more than anything, is darkness.

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

    (Photo by Tyson Dudley on Unsplash)
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