Without fail, one of the first questions people ask me when we meet is, “What does Asheritah mean?”
Granted, it’s an unusual name, so I’ve come to expect it. But if you’ve been wondering the same thing, I’ve got to warn you that there’s a whole story to it.
I’ll tell you the abbreviated version, and when we meet in person, feel free to ask me for more details. Ready?
Grab a glass of your favorite beverage, and join me on my back porch as we travel back in time.
I was born in a pregnancy crisis center in Athens, Greece.
My dad was the pastor of several underground churches in Romania, and the communist secret police was plotting to kill him, so my family planned to escape. My brave mother, 21 years old and six months pregnant with me, got on a plane to the nearest country that accepted political refugees–Greece–even though she didn’t know a single soul and didn’t know when she would see her loved ones again. It was in the midst of that uncertainty that I was born.
My parents named me Asheritah, a Hebrew name rich with meaning: God gives happiness. And that’s been my guiding light in life. (Incidentally, my dad made up that name while he was studying Hebrew in seminary. He had been dating my mom and wasn’t quite fond of her first name, Felicia, so he called her Asheritah instead. Kind of cute, right? …But that’s another story for another time.)
Within a few months of my birth, my dad and brother joined us in Greece and we eventually settled in the US. My parents had promised God that if communism ever fell, they would return to their home country. Little did they know that just a few short months after arriving in the US, the Iron Curtain would be torn and religious freedom restored. When I was seven we went back to Romania as missionaries to the Gypsies. It was an incredible childhood, and I had the joy of seeing hundreds of men and women come to know Jesus as their Savior.
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Their lives changed. Drunkards became pastors. Gamblers became hard workers. Prostitutes became faithful wives. And criminals became upstanding citizens of society. Whole communities were transformed as these people who were once considered the lowest strata of society experienced the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
I could go on and on about the stories. [You can read more about our missionary story in this post.] But the truth is that from a very young age I knew that God was intimately involved and interested in my life. And over time I discovered a secondary meaning to my name. Not only does God give me happiness, but God is my happiness. In the presence of God there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).
Even in the darkest seasons of my life, when my father walked away, my family fell apart, and my dreams were crushed, God continued to sustain me and hold me close. He has blessed me with an amazing husband and two adorable daughters and I spend my day between writing blog posts and kissing boo-boos.
My name has given me many opportunities to share the Good News: we can be happy because Jesus forgives our sins and offers us an eternity with God.
So whether we’re fleeing for our lives or changing diapers, we can find joy in Jesus.
Because God is our happiness.