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Addy Aspen – Live Deeply

I’m Addy Aspen, and I just finished a two-year internship in May helping lead the high school girls at CSPC. This is how I’m living deeply. 

“For the longest time, I didn’t like my sister or my parents. I was the baby of the three kids in our family, but I felt like the middle child- the one you always see getting left behind at the gas station or wherever in the movies. Grace is a year older than me and has Down syndrome. Growing up, she consumed Mom and Dad’s attention. I was embittered because of the way I was overlooked or, really, looked through. I was what’s known as a ‘glass child,’ the sibling of a child with special needs. The term ‘glass’ is accurate because you feel like everyone’s looking directly through you to take care of your sibling’s needs- in my case, Grace. (When I went to summer camp -and later worked at the camp- was when I really felt seen and loved.) But there was more to my frustration than just being overlooked. It’s really bad to say, but I would always get embarrassed by Grace, too. She’s nonverbal and doesn’t really talk, but she’ll make noises- sort of like a grown toddler. So if my family was at one of my softball games, Grace would make noises during the national anthem and everyone would look over. I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is so embarrassing!’ I cared so much about what people thought, and I shouldn’t have- Grace is a child of God and made in His image. She’s precious in His sight. But when you’re a high schooler who just wants to be accepted, it’s easy to lose sight of that. I’m definitely a recovering people pleaser. I just cared so much about wanting people to like me. Whether it hurt me or not, I was always trying to look out for their best interests instead of mine. So by the time I entered college, I had some real struggles going on: a hardened heart toward my family, a destructive bent toward people pleasing, and issues with confidence. Each of those struggles was related to the other two- they fed off one another in sort of a vicious cycle.

I had to switch colleges my sophomore year and came to a very low moment- and that was where God met me. After a great freshman year, I found myself at a new college where I didn’t want to be, didn’t know anyone, and was working a job I didn’t like. I was like, ‘Okay, I don’t have anywhere else to go besides to the Lord.’ So I cried out to Him, and He began my slow healing process. I grew up in southern Illinois but was away at Southeast Missouri State for school, and it ended up being a good thing. The love my parents expressed in their calls and letters was deeply meaningful. I was also able express to them how I felt, and the healing took place. My parents were always good parents, but sometimes in the past there had just been a lack of communication (on both our ends) that we were now able to bridge. I would go back to different moments from growing up where I’d felt hurt or looked through, and they would always assure me, ‘Oh, gosh, we never meant that.’ I had always been loved and valued by my family, but now I felt it in a whole new way. The Lord really came in, found those spots of my heart that were hardened, and healed them during college, including my attitude toward Grace. Do I have it all together now? Of course not. But through God’s healing in my life, He’s enabled me to serve as His vassal to help heal others. During one of my final talks as a CSPC intern, I was vulnerable and shared this story with the students- and that was a moment of connection I’ll remember for a long time. A lot of the girls have self-worth and self-image struggles, too. They told me what they appreciated about my talk: ‘You basically painted the picture that you didn’t have it all together, you still don’t have it all together, and that’s okay because the Lord uses broken people for big things.’ That was exactly what I hoped they’d heard. The Lord had basically told me, ‘I was here the whole time, all you had to do was just turn to me. Keep doing that, and I will continue to use you and shape you.’ And it’s the same for any of us- the Lord doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.

Now God has called me to Seven Rivers Church in Lecanto, Florida, where I’m the middle school associate director. Without the CSPC internship, I wouldn’t be here. I majored in business, not ministry. (I more than likely would be the manager of a restaurant I worked at through college- I ended up really loving my community in southeast Missouri!) But CSPC Director of High School & Student Ministry Sarah Braden and I had connected well at the camp where I worked when I was in high school, so she’d stayed in touch with me and kept encouraging me to consider the internship. I’m so glad I did- because it changed everything. My confidence has grown in all aspects. I feel like I’m leaving the internship more spiritually mature than when I came in, and God’s given me this confidence that CSPC is where I was supposed to be. Now He’s leading me on to what’s next, opening the door for a career in ministry, which I would have never guessed. Even drilling down beneath that bigger picture, CSPC grew me in so many practical ways, like giving talks. When I gave talks at camp, I worked with the younger kids and always thought, ‘I’ll do it, and if it goes badly, it’s okay because they are like, eight, and won’t remember it anyway.’ I’d sort of brought the same outlook to CSPC, and I remember Sarah encouraging me, ‘No, Addy, what you say matters! You’re doing great, but you need to know that what you’re saying matters, and it has a purpose.’ From there, I changed my approach: Before a talk, I’d start picking a few students in different grades and ask, ‘Okay, what is something they can take away from this? What’s something I wish I had known when I was in high school?’ And that’s how I got to the point of becoming vulnerable enough to share my own story: If God can heal me, use me, and even be pleased with me in all my imperfection, He will do the same for them, and they needed to hear that. I already miss the students and being their hype girl! Leaving Knoxville definitely feels bittersweet because I’m excited for what’s ahead, but at the same time don’t want to leave.” 


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