Ashlee Birk’s story is one of a survivor, she chose to open her heart and let her faith lead her to a stronger place in the midst of tragedy. When you hear her story, it’s so much more that her Dateline interview in 2013, which was just the beginning. It’s what Ashlee went through after that experience to get to where she is today, that makes her an empowering woman. We all have that anger, pain and trauma that we are holding onto. What I’ve learned from Ashlee has helped me so much in healing, moving forward and staying on that right path of faith.
Today Ashlee is a wife and mom of a beautiful blended family taking everyday as a gift and living through her faith. Her strength is inevitable as she wrote a letter to her biggest enemy….Trauma! This is her story
Ashlee didn’t let this tragedy hold her down, she found love, and she broke free from the anger and the feeling of not being “enough”. We’ve all suffered various traumas in our life. But it’s up to us not to let it win. Ashlee chose to stand…and you can stand too!
I can’t begin to tell you what a huge blessing it was that I came across Ashlee’s blog “The Moments We Stand”. Last December I was catching up on my Dateline episodes online and watched Ashlee’s story, I was sickened by all the things that happened to her in a blink of an eye. I honestly couldn’t imagine feeling all that pain in a single instant. After seeing her story, I looked her up because I wondered how she and her five small children were doing. In my search I found that she had a blog, a place that not only shared her story but shared her gift of helping others. Ashlee has come a long way from that awful night, through her sharing the trauma and healing process I was able to start to let go of a lot of anger I was feeling from my own life. She truly is empowering in every sense of the word! You will be moved by her words in our interview and if ever think you can’t get through your own trauma, I want you to remember Ashlee and look to her blog for guidance, because “The Moments We Stand” is truly a path to healing!
M: Your faith has guided you throughout your life, as you recalled in your video “What I wish I would’ve known in middle school” and even more so after this tragedy. How has your faith helped you move forward to where you are today?
Ashlee: My faith is the only reason I am where I am today. It is so hard when you are surrounded by so many thoughts, and people asking “Why?” to remember that all things happen for a reason. So the first step for me was to let go of the desire for answers to that question. That took many years and lots of tears and prayer. But soon it became clear that the questions to ask God was “How?”
I remember one night screaming in my car as I drove. “You think I am so strong? . . . you think I can do all of these things? You think you can just take everything away from me, and ask me to stand up again? You think I have anything left?” And the most humble answer came to my mind, “NO . . . but I do know you believe. And with that faith, you will find me . . . and I will not only ask you to stand, I will show you how.”
So my faith and my belief has lead me to ask the right questions. When we focus on our pain and all that we do not know, we become even weaker. But when we focus on God’s strength and the power of grace and love of his Son—we are lead to ask the questions that lead us out of our struggles. Because it is grace that makes us whole—His plan, His love, and His sacrifices for us. Not a realization of our own strength through our struggles and sacrifices. When we use that grace—the gift He has given us freely—in our story, it becomes a story of strength—instead of seeing ourselves as a fractured broken being.
M: When did you start blogging and how has your blogging and writing helped you through the healing and forgiving process?
Ashlee: I started blogging in January of 2014. It came to me as an inspiration on how to help myself heal, after months of months of struggles realizing that the murder trial was not going to be what made me feel whole. So starting the blog—in my mind—was going to be my personal healing journey journal. Little did I know, that God again had a different plan. When I got the first comment from a stranger, I just about shut the whole thing down. And when after the first week a million people had read it, I had a mental break down begging Heavenly Father to please let me stop.
But I carried on. And I didn’t know how healing it was going to be to watch others heal their pain through my story. I had no idea that the words He had sent to me, were going to mean anything to anyone else. So what started out as a journey to fix what was broken inside of me, has become a mission—a mission to share God’s love with anyone who has lost sight of it. A mission to share messages of truth, that I have been blessed to find. A mission to spread light in a dark world. A journey to forgive—those in my story who hurt me . . . but even more myself. To step outside of victim-hood and forgive myself for allowing myself to be trapped in hatred for so long. Blogging and writing has really been my moment to realize I was the prisoner, and to set that broken girl free—and find the truths and beauty that were still inside.
M: What does the statement ‘You are enough” mean to you?
Ashlee: “You are enough” These words have become my life motto. During my trauma I came to believe so many lies—that seemed to pose as truths. Being “not enough” empowered my thoughts, my actions, and my view of myself. I didn’t just think it often—I lived it every moment of every day. The biggest battle I had to fight was to escape from that suffocating belief. My mind and my body were constantly surrounded by fears of anything proving that I was not enough. The clothes I wore, the foods I ate—everything I did—was based around my obsessive plea to prove that belief wrong, and yet it felt as though the universe was constantly showing me all the reasons why it was true.
Every piece of evidence—every phone record, every piece of paper, every fact from the case—powered my insecurity that I was not enough. One day I was looking in the mirror with hate—not for all the people in my story who had failed me—hate for myself. My face burned as the hatred inside of me screamed at my soul. Time seemed to freeze as I stared into the depths of my being. Each second bringing more and more angst for the woman I saw.
Soon a tender voice came into my mind, “You are enough. You always have been, and you always will be.”
That truth pierced my heart. And like a dark cloud on a rainy day blows away at the end of a storm, the deep fog of hate that had surrounded me seemed to fade away. And for a moment, I could see myself how God sees me. And I was beautiful. Not the physical type of beauty that I had longed to see in myself. The eternal kind of beauty that had always been inside of me. That was the day I began to fight. Fight to remember my truths—it was then that no amount of “evidence” brought to me by outside sources would ever change the way I saw me. It was that moment that I knew God was the only source for my worth. No man, no friend, no pant size— Just Him. Being enough no longer was a destination—it was apart of me.
M: You made such a difference for so many by hosting the conference “A Reason to stand”. What has the conference taught you and what has it shown others that have come to you for advice or one on one help?
Ashlee: Doing conferences and one on ones has taught me so much. Helping others find their truths, and working through their trauma helps me. Truth is inside all of us, we each gain more light as we share our light. I love meeting people face to face and hugging them, and feeling their energy. I love seeing the faces of other warriors. I love having them embrace me and not let go for a long time. I feel connected to each of the friends I have made on this journey, and any time our paths can cross I feel blessed. The conferences have become a way for us to find strength in each other. Every single person in the audience could get up on that stage with a microphone in their hand and tell a story—a story of heartache, of pain . . . but also a story full of grace.
That is what makes us each so special. Everyone is fighting a different battle, but we are all on the same team—survivors of something hard—overcoming trauma, pain, and searching every day to remember who we are. Some have stories they will never share, and others of us have been asked to speak from our heart and give a voice to the pain buried deep inside each one of us.
Working on one on one with individuals is also very inspiring and uplifting. As I offer and share, I learn more about the path to healing that I am still on. And I also become even more aware that this life is a continual journey of healing and connecting—replacing dark beliefs with positive energy and love. Even if people are a thousand miles away, each session helps me feel a connection to that person and the love God has for them . . . and for all mankind.
M: You said before that your writing helped you heal instead of a log of all the wrong that was done. Why did you decide to write the books, what is the difference between the two?
Ashlee: The day I felt like I was supposed to start a blog, I thought . . . sweet, I finally will have the chance to let out the pain and all the hurtful things that were done to me. But that is not at all what it turned out to be. I was blessed to remember the tender mercies and the impactful moments that changed me and my family. That was kind of the miracle of the writing on the blog—it gave me a new way to see my story.
I had a dream one night—way before I started the blog—about a book I threw over the edge of a cliff and into the ocean. I didn’t know at the time, that this would be a book of my life. I never ever thought I would share the stories of past. So I thought it was going to be more of a symbolic “sharing my story” would help me heal. One Sunday I had talked to my grandma and she told me she printed a couple thousand pages off for all of her friends—who didn’t have computers—to read the stories on my blog. I hung up the phone and started getting ready for the day. The whole morning I kept getting this nagging feeling that the stories from the blog needed to be in a book form. So book one, except for a few chapters, is a compilation of stories from the blog. Book two I did a little bit of both, stories from the blog and other parts of our story I had not shared on the blog. And book three is going to be very different. I am going to share things I have never shared on the blog. It will be moments up through the murder trial and the months after. It has taken me a bit longer, because some of the topics . . . I have not found myself ready to be so real about. So I will let you know how that goes. Haha!
M: You’ve said before that you’re not telling the story as a victim, but as a survivor. Can you explain what that means for you?
Ashlee: Since the day I started the blog, I have said I want my story to be told—not as a victim but as a survivor. It was hard not to dwell on the struggles and to use them as an excuse for my life. But I didn’t want to be that girl—the one who was broken forever. The one who lost her way in all realms because the past told me I was just a victim.
Victims don’t get back up. Victims spend their life blaming everyone around them for their unhappiness. Victims fall down and wait around for someone else to come and make them feel whole. I refused to be that girl. To survive something, we don’t let it break us. We fight to stand back up, instead of waiting for someone to show us how. We stand tall, not because it is easy . . . but because we are worth way more than anyone on earth has shown us we are.
So, for me—I have been a victim . . . in my life, on the left side of a murder trial court room, and in so many moments. But as a victim I never felt strong—I was never me. I was weak and broken. But when I found courage to stand up and take back my power, that is when I realized I wanted to be so much more than a victim. I would be a survivor. The difference in the stories of survivors and victims is just one thing. Bravery. I am brave. I am strong. And I will live my life as a survivor.
Ashlee is blessed to have her amazing husband Shawn and her beautiful family that are learning and living each day through faith! It’s amazing the way things will find a way to work out if you let God in!
You can follow Ashlee Instagram, FaceBook , Twitter and Pinterest and I strongly encourage you to sign up for her blog! When I subscribed last December I never thought what a blessing it would be to receive her emails each week, some ironically being exactly what I needed to hear at that very moment. A few months ago, her and I finally connected to work on this project but also to share our stories of healing! You can also reach out to Ashlee and schedule a one on one with her!
You can purchase both of her books here and also enter our giveaway to win a copy of her second book “Out of the Shadows”
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Thank you to Ashlee for sharing her story and thanks for stopping by!
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