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


    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.

    Read more