July 23, 2016

Another day to stand

For the last few years I have shared my heart with the world as a blogger. It is not a title I ever would have chosen for myself, but every day I have learned it is where I was always meant to be.

Along this same journey I have had the opportunity to become a motivational speaker—also not something I would have ever aspired to . . . but still I find myself here.

I have felt very humbled to be in these positions and have spent many days speaking for all different crowds of people, each time learning something new myself.

I have run my own conferences and brought together teams of motivational speakers from all walks of life. In them I have met some of my best friends, all with a different story.

It is crazy how some things in life choose us; many times contrary to every plan we ever set out to live.

So here it is.

The past few months I have been having dreams and many thoughts teaching me about a spiritual trauma healing therapy that I have felt inspired to create. I would like to start working with clients one on one, over the phone or FaceTime, to begin putting it into practice, and learning even more myself.

If you or someone you know would like to sign up please email me at themomentswestand@gmail.com. Space will be limited, but I feel strongly that there are some of you who read this blog that need to learn from this method and I am excited to watch it grow.

Also starting this week, I am going to be booking speaking engagements for the next year so I can get my calendar planned out. If you are interested in booking me for a future event, please contact me ASAP so we can get it set up.

Thank you to the businesses, churches, and organizations that have believed in me these past few years. As daunting as it has been—and how inadequate I have felt—it has shown me where I belong. There have not been many moments in my life when I have felt so close to my Savior then when I have a microphone in my hand on stage speaking of the truths that He has given me—truths about death, truths about forgiveness, truths about worth, truths about healing and choosing to stand, and truths about life.

I have a message I want to share—not because it is easy, but because I believe in this mission. Thank you for supporting me. If you would have asked me a few years ago why . . . why I was willing to open my heart to complete strangers, I would have told you it was because I had the hope to change just one—save one marriage, stop one gun, protect one heart. But the truth is: this mission has saved one. It has saved me.

Thanks for letting me grow, and heal, and follow the prompting to embrace my story.

My name is Ashlee. I am a survivor of infidelity and murder. And I am still standing. I am the survivor of victimhood—and I am still fighting every day to forgive, to overcome, and to bring light to a dark world.

I choose to stand. 

I have created a website for my speaking and on one one sessions. Since this will still remain my blog for stories and inspiration, I thought it would be easier to use the new website for information on speaking and trauma healing one-on-ones. 

For more information the website is: www.ashleebirk.com

July 21, 2016

Anything but normal

Last night I was getting frustrated with my washing machine. A few months back it started acting up and wouldn't add water into the tank. I experimented and found that if I ran it on the delicate cycle it worked just fine. Then I tried the bedding cycle—worked perfectly. So I tried, on the third load, to go back to the normal setting and run it again. Nothing. Dry as a bone. 

So for the last few months—instead of calling a repairman like a "normal" person—I have just run the machine on all the settings, except normal. Yesterday my frustrations were reignited when I forgot and tried to run the machine on the normal setting. Figuring out at the end of the cycle that the machine hadn’t even begun to do its job. The clothes had gone through the cycle, but since no water had been added to the machine they were still dry . . . and dirty.

What is normal? A destination we want to reach? What we think others are—and we should want to become? Is the ideal of “normal” something that inspires us to set goals, or just a word that makes us believe we aren’t good enough the way we are?

 Normal. It is just a setting on my washing machine, but as of right now, even on my washing machine “normal” is pretty useless.

What is normal in an individual? And in a family? I think we all have an idea of what a family should look like—an ideal setting in which we want to strive to live. As individuals we set goals to become something we are not currently living as, and hopes for what we want others to become. Only in families, when we have our heart set on “normal” we almost always fail, because the truth is: “normal” isn’t real.

NONE of us are normal. And just like my washer, no matter how many times I try to force it into that “setting”—or we try to live in the belief of becoming “normal”—or mistakenly forget that it doesn’t work for us—but accidently try to start using it again—something is going to go wrong. We stop living life as us, and begin aspiring to an unachievable goal. And we go through the motions—of the “normal” life . . . but in the end we are still just a pile of dirty clothes. Sometimes wondering if we are in the wrong place because our path doesn’t look like we thought that it should. Our families feel anything but normal and we start to wonder if our need to feel “normal” would better be achieved somewhere else.

So where do we reach that goal? Can it ever be achieved in the un“normal” settings we have all been placed in? We want to be happy, but our belief that we first have to be normal . . . is making us miserable.

Look at your family. They are everything but “normal” right? Ya. Me too. But they are right where we belong.

Every family looks different. Some have only one parent. Some have no children. Some families are two families blended together into one. Some kids have to go back and forth between two houses—other kids wished they had a house to live. Some children have a birth mom and live with parents who look nothing like them. In some households everyone looks almost exactly the same. Some couples wished they could have a baby—others don’t know what to do with the news that a baby is on the way. 

Humans. Not one of us is the same. We each have a story—a unique journey that has made us who we are. Some of us were planned—some of us were surprises. Some of us have dark skin— others have light. Some of us have brown eyes, and others got their blue eyes from a father they have never met. But not one of us is normal. And we were never supposed to be. Unique and different from one person to another—and one family to the next.

So many nights I have cried with a prayerful plea that I could just be “normal” again. Some of these moments have been a cry for the pain to be taken from me; others a hope that my past could be erased. Some days have been a wish that one of our daughters didn’t have to flip flop between two houses, and the others didn’t have to know firsthand what murder was. “Normal” began to be a destination I thought I could fight to reach—but every day I see that it is a mystical place that no one was ever supposed to be.

Satan uses it as a goal we are supposed to strive for, so we always wonder what is wrong with us. Never fully living in our own truths—always having a thought at the back of our mind that our differences keep us from that goal.

So in light of our very un“normal” blended family’s anniversary I petition that we ban the normal setting in our minds—just like my washing machine—and start seeing the good that comes from looking at our families, and ourselves, with the delicate setting as our goal.

God believes in you. He believes in families. He believes in love. He believes in making right our wrongs. He believes in us . . . as broken, blended, delicate, fractured, and imperfect as we are.

So to all my un“normal” friends. Thanks for loving the broken me, that has shared my heart with all of you. Thanks for believing in this far from “normal” blended family that I get to call mine every single day. Thanks for living your stories, as hard and emotional as they have been. For sharing your struggles and triumphs with me and helping me understand how special each journey can be.

Normal really is just a setting on a washing machine—and if you ask me it is over rated. You are delicate, and your life is beautiful. With all the bumps and bruises, and smiles in between.

Five years ago Shawn and I made the biggest decision of our lives. We became a blended family.

Has it been easy? Nope. Were we prepared for it? No. Has it been perfect? Not at all. Have there been days when one or the other of us has thought we made a mistake and wished we could just be "normal"? Absolutely.  

But I would do it all again . . .

The crazy part of life is that we never know what it has in store. We can try to map it out, and create plans but the truth is, the only thing we can plan is that our map will have some twists and turns. 

Be prepared to take some leaps. Be willing to jump. Have faith that God's plan will be greater than the one you always thought you would live. And then live it. Own it. And make the most of every moment. Like it was all on purpose. 

Happy Anniversary to the man who has stood by my side through the hardest of days—but also the sweetest of memories. I don’t know how we made it through, but I am so thankful I am here with you. There has been nothing normal about our life, but I love that we fight every day to live it.

Love you Shawn.

Post about our marriage: 

July 20, 2016


Ran into my friend Nathan Ogden and his family on the beach the other day! If you have heard him speak at A Reason to Stand you know why he is so awesome...but his wife Heather is just as cool! So many amazing things these guys have done and I am so impressed with the light they both share with everyone they meet. Go check out his new book if you haven't already. You won't be disappointed

(Click on picture)

July 19, 2016

Free Webinar Classes for July

One of my favorite online classes is being offered free this month! Please go check it out if you haven't. I have learned a ton from this class and would recommend it to anyone!

To register  email Jen at karenseternalwarriors@gmail.com

July 16, 2016

Some would ask why I stand

Some would ask why I stand

When I was young I had my whole life planned out….I wanted to be a teacher, I dreamed of traveling to the USA (which was pretty much the furthest place you could go from my home in Tasmania, Australia), I would get married and have a family – two boys and two girls sounded perfect.

I was lucky enough to be able to travel and study in the USA for 13 months, and then I came back home to Tasmania, and continued studying to be a teacher.   It was during this time when I met Aaron as he had started to come to church with a friend. 

Nine months after we met we were engaged, and nine months after we were engaged, we were married.  For our first four years of marriage I was finishing my degree and then started teaching, while Aaron worked full time. 

I loved my job as a teacher but Aaron would wake up every day and just dread going to work.  He had worked full time since he was very young and didn’t go on to study any further past year 11.  I couldn’t understand how someone could just keep getting up day after day, to do something that they didn’t like.  I started to talk to him to go back to school as a mature age student and after lots of encouragement, he finally decided to apply and was happily surprised to be accepted to our local university.

While he was studying I became pregnant with our first child, so it was a very busy but also exciting time.  When our first son Jalen was born I gave up my full time teaching job and stayed at home full time.  Almost two years later we had our second son Noah.  He was a beautiful baby but from three days old he screamed non-stop – day and night.  It wasn’t a regular newborn cry, but a very high pitched distressed cry. 

After weeks of going back and forth to the doctor, we were finally able to see a paediatrician.  He didn’t tell me at all what I was expecting to hear – he thought that Noah was having seizures and wanted me to bring him into hospital for some tests.   Just over twenty four hours later we couldn’t believe what we were hearing – Noah had a condition called hydranencephaly.   Most of his cortex (brain) was missing and replaced with fluid from a possible stroke in utero during the second trimester of my pregnancy.

We were told that the damage to his brain was so severe that he would not respond to us, he was having seizures, he would be blind and deaf, he would rely on us for everything his whole life, and if that wasn’t enough to hear, we were also told that his life would be very short.  He would possibly only live for two to four years.

Aaron and I were devastated and our life as we knew it came crashing down before us.  I remember thinking that this was something that always happened to someone else – I couldn’t believe that just the day before we thought we had this perfect (but unhappy) baby, and now we were taking our disabled son home, and we had no idea how long we would have him for.   One thing I do remember is looking at Aaron and saying ‘we can do it together’ as I was just so glad that we had each other.  I knew that our life was now going to be very hard and not at all what we had planned, but I also knew that our relationship was strong and together we could get through anything.

Having a child with a severe disability is exhausting emotionally, physically, spiritually and financially.  There were many days when we were just so drained, and it could’ve been easy to just say how unfair it all was.   But we also knew how blessed we were to have Noah with us, and for us to have the responsibility of being his parents.  His body wasn’t perfect, but his spirit was.   As a couple we decided that no matter how long Noah was with us for, we just wanted to give him the best life that we could.   It could’ve been easy to let it all overwhelm us, but we grew to appreciate the little things.  Instead of celebrating milestones such as crawling, walking and talking we were so grateful for the little smiles that he started to give us.  We really appreciated the little things.  Our days were full of appointments to therapists, doctors, chiropractors and naturopaths – all helping us to give him the best life possible.  Noah used a wheelchair, was fed by a permanent tube in his stomach, needed numerous medications and therapy every day, and had seizures every day of his life. 
We were so happy to learn that his hearing was perfect and even though he was cortically visually impaired (his eyes were okay, but his sight was hindered by the messages going to his brain) he would have times when his sight seemed very good.  As he grew he began to giggle and laugh and we knew what a miracle he was to be living and also responding, because of the damage that he had to his brain. 

Aaron finished school a couple of years after Noah was born, and started teaching in a High School close to home.  He loved his job and it was so good to see him wake up and look forward to going to work.  We had always wanted to have more children, and had two more boys – Harrison and Kobe.  I always wanted to have two boys and two girls, but absolutely loved having four boys.

Noah continued to surprise the doctors and even though he had many admissions to hospital during his life, we celebrated his tenth birthday in June, 2011.   As Noah got older the smiles and giggles came less and less. It was obvious that his body was becoming more and more tired as he had to deal with many illnesses throughout his life. 

In October 2011 we took him to hospital just like we had many times before, as we could tell he had another chest infection.  However this time was different to every other time.  I had never seen the doctors move so fast as they worked out what to do to help Noah.  For the first time in his life the doctors decided that he needed a tube placed to help him breath and then they talked to us about flying him to a hospital which was hours away, so that he could get the best treatment possible in a paediatric intensive care unit.

After a week in the PICU and lots of ups and downs, it became very obvious that Noah’s body was shutting down.  He could no longer breathe on his own and needed a lot of medical intervention to just keep him alive.  It was the time we had dreaded his whole life.  It was time to say goodbye to him and let his beautiful spirit leave his tired body.  

The next day was the hardest, longest but also shortest day of our lives.  Our family and close friends came to say goodbye to Noah and we sat around him, held onto his hands and stroked his beautiful face as we spent our last moments with him.  Our hearts were broken, but we also felt so much peace as we knew that it was his time to go, and that we had done all we could to give him the best life possible while he was with us. 

The next few months were so hard to adjust to.  Aaron took a month off work as we spent time together going through his medical supplies, returning equipment that he no longer needed, and just grieving together.  When Noah was alive we were constantly watching the clock to know when Noah’s next feed or meds were due.  Without Noah we now had so much more time and we didn’t know what to do with it.  All we wanted to be doing was caring for Noah again.  We missed getting up in the night to change his position in bed.  We missed suctioning him day and night, we missed putting on his body splints to keep his muscles from getting tighter. We missed doing physio therapy, and having to lift him in and out of his wheelchair. We would’ve given anything to have all of that back.  Our family just wasn’t complete without him.

Aaron was taking Noah’s death especially hard.  A few months later we decided to take our annual family holiday, and invited my extended family to join us for the first time.  We were worried about going for the first time without Noah and hoped that having them there with us would make it easier.  Our first day there was spent at our favourite beach.  We laughed and jumped in the waves together and Aaron made a comment to me that he felt like his heart was being healed by being there with my family.   We both talked about how even though life without Noah was so hard, we knew that it could be good again, and we knew that Noah would want us to be happy.

That night after Aaron went on a short fishing trip, he had a massive heart attack right in front of us.  He wasn’t able to be revived and was pronounced dead, just three and a half months after Noah passed away.  I remember pacing the floor and looking towards Heaven asking ‘why is this happening!?’.  I still don’t know and I don’t think that getting the answer will make things any easier.  Instead I decided to not look for answers, but to just try to deal with it the best that I could.   

The last four and a half years have been very hard, especially as I have had to help my three boys through their own grief, while going through so much grief and trauma myself.  When Aaron died, I knew that I could question why, and I could get angry and say life wasn’t fair and sometimes I do.   But I knew that if I let myself be consumed by all those negative thoughts there was no way I would cope with what had happened.  It was hard enough just living without them and suddenly being a widow and a single Mum. 

There have been many, many tears over the last four years.  I know I’ll be with them again, but it doesn’t necessarily make things any easier.  I do believe that families are forever, but a third of my family is not with me right now, and that’s so hard.  What I have learnt through all of this is that grieving is okay and there is no timeline for it.  It’s hard to watch someone grieving.  It’s hard for people to know what to do or say.  It’s easier to just sometimes avoid it. 

But people shouldn’t be expected to ‘move on’ or to get over it or to be okay because of the faith that we may have.  When my boys are having a hard day, I have learnt that it’s okay to just allow them to have a hard day. Sometimes the only thing that helps is to feel whatever we are feeling at the time.  Grief cannot be rushed and I’m so grateful for beautiful friends who know this, and allow me the time and space to just grieve or talk about what we are going through, or to talk about Aaron and Noah.   
When Aaron and Noah died I knew that I had to live my life to make them proud, and have tried to teach my boys that as well – we now had to live for them.   The first two years were very hard, but I did all I could to make new happy memories with my boys, and to try to see the positives in our lives as that’s the only way I could cope.  We went on our first big holiday together, we would fill our weekends with activities that we couldn’t always do when Noah was alive.   If we were having a really hard day, we would often just jump in the car and go and do something fun to try to cheer ourselves up.  It didn’t mean that we stopped feeling grieving, but it helped us to get through another day without them, and the weekends we used to dread because they were long and sad, we now look forward to.  

On especially hard days such as birthdays, anniversaries, and other celebrations we would go somewhere that we hadn’t before, or would go somewhere special for dinner.  We would release balloons on their birthdays and spend the day with beautiful friends who would drink Aaron’s favourite drink with us around his grave, as we shared silly stories about him. 

It’s now four and a half years since Aaron and Noah passed away and it’s still hard without them, but we now have a lot more happy days than sad days. 

It’s such a long and lonely road no matter how many people are supporting you, but all of these people have helped us to stand again.  I believe that for someone to stand again, they need time, patience, love and someone to lean on until they are steady on their feet again.  When you are going through something so hard in your life it is also easy to fall again at different times. It takes a long time before you really feel steady on your feet and can stand without needing as much support.

I am grateful for amazing family, friends and even strangers who have helped us over the last four and a half years, and who have helped me and my boys to stand again.

Read more about Lisa's journey: 

Related stories: Silence Breaks

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