I got to do three wedding ceremonies this summer. Two for great friends in our community and just last week, for my own brother. I really like "doing" weddings. Partly because it's exciting to stand before two people making such a huge commitment as the one representing God in sealing the promise. Another reason is I like to have fun (and make weddings fun-Have you ever been to a boring wedding? Ug! Comment now!) and remind people of God's design and how amazing marriage can be--especially for the guests. I think some of the brides and the grooms are so busy, excited, stressed, nervous, scattered, distracted, and hungry that they barely remember what the officiant says until they watch the video after the honeymoon. That's just how it goes sometimes for some. But the guests who come, although maybe hungry, aren't so distracted and a little more open to "heart." I always assume the following in regards to the guests: 1-Some are married and enjoying it, working hard and making it work. 2-Some are married and hating it, it's too much work, or they don't put enough work into it to make it enjoyable-therefore they come skeptical and bitter about marriage (some actually betting how long this newlywed couple will last and some even on the verge of divorce). 3-Others are single because they haven't been married yet, divorced, or death, and of those some really want to be married badly and others never again-for many reasons. And finally there are some who will never married as they are gifted by God to do so. So.. Whew, that's a huge cross section of people in which to address a message on God's design--within ten minutes, but I always try. This past week was especially challenging as I stood before my whole family and my one and only (blood) brother, Chris.
My Daughter, Isella, was one of three little flower girls (my cousin's daughters). Here they are as they wait for their big moment.
Here she is checking Papa's pockets for lint, snacks,...money..(BTW--my flower eventually got fixed).
We have a very large family (part due to being Italian, the other due to divorces, remarriages, and adoptions). Here are some family shots.
Above -my Mom with all my other brothers and sisters. (A combination of step-siblings, 3 adopted siblings, and three others who are foster brothers. Brady Bunch: eat your heart out!) This is my cousin's son, Caden, below. That night my cousin and I were talking about parenting and leading our children (that are on "loan" from God). I got to pray over him that night, and we had an impromptu dedication. It was a cool privilege.
Here is my Aunt and Uncle: Jerri and Daryl, with my two cousins: Gavin (5) and Cooper (1.5).
I have spoken about them a lot. Although I call them "Aunt and Uncle," they are more like good friends. Daryl is actually like a brother, both to me and Chris. Many of my friends have been praying for Daryl and his fight against cancer. He continues to amaze me with his great attitude. He has survived cancer over eight years. He is now in a new round (somewhat experimental and new) of radiation. Please continue to pray for him. What I loved about this wedding is that my brother and sister-in-law decided to make a donation to LiveStrong and gave everyone yellow bracelets, in which I am now wearing as a great reminder to pray for Daryl and all those (8 Million) fighting Cancer.
My dad giving his best man speech. He said it would be "short" and rolled out a scroll. He's to the right of the layered cake in the middle.
I choked up twice. Once during the ceremony talking about the importance modeling the love of God in our marriages according to Ephesians 5:22ff and showing love to your spouse by encouraging them with words (thinking of my own wife and how much I love her for being a great mom). The second was during my reception speech when I was encouraging my Chris, my brother. All his friends know him by the nickname, "Gap." What people don't know is that he shares the "Gap" nickname (and wears it well) with my Grandfather, who I was named after: Anthony James (Gap) Gapastione. Grandpa Gap was one of the most influential men in my life and I only had ten years with him. He died over twenty years ago, But it goes to show the power of someone who loves much. He went out of his way to spend time with me, made me feel special (nicknamed me A.J.), and was a generous and loving person. I still have fond memories of him and become emotional when I talk about his influence on my life-over twenty years ago his legacy still lives on. What great footsteps to follow for my brother and me.
Poppie and Grandma (Isella's names for my Dad and StepMom). Doesn't my Dad look like James Gandolfini(The guy who played Tony Soprano)?
You know I'm gonna get down when my brother comes up to me and says, "Let's have a dance off!" What is this? Grease? High School Musical? Either way, I'm poppin' moves that would make John Travolta and Justin Timberlake cringe. But hey, I had fun. (no wonder people like to crash weddings).
Yes ladies and gentleman, all this with not a sip of alcohol. This is no joke. Somewhere in a dance hall in Illinois late last Saturday night: yes, I did think I could dance!
A favorite part of life. My daughter in my lap.
Congrats Mr. & Mrs. (Chicago) Gapastione. Although, they are not the only Chicago Gapastiones, they now must be distinguished from Wendy and me as the Cali-Gaps.
By the way, I received so many text messages and facebook comments about how people were praying for me and my family during the weekend. Thank you! I love being a part of the church! A huge shout out to the Newlywed Koldings who sensed God was going to do something completely awe-inspiring. And so I waited and waited and one of the coolest moments was at 11:55pm, 5 minutes before the dance-a-thon (reception) shut down. A guy (friend of my brother) came up to me and asked a question. It started like this:
Guy: So what kind of church are you a part of
Me: One of those weird, judgmental cult ones, why? (No Just kidding)
Me: A Christian one.
Guy: What kind of Christian one?....
Then we started talking about God, the Church, grace, bad experiences with boring, irrelevant churches etc...And I tried not to rant or get on a soapbox too much but I was really excited someone was really interested seeking God. It seemed like he was hungry for the real God who he hadn't quite seen presented in a way that was loving or likable. So I did my best to affirm him about God's goodness and plan. I talked about our church family and how I had experienced God through community.
Guy: Well, if I could find a church like the one you are talking about I would love to be a part of that!
It was so awesome.
and GOD-RONICALLY, he and his family live in a town that has a great church that meets and serves there. We've talked by phone and he's now considering looking into this church --which happens to be the same one in which Aunt and Uncle are a part of in Illinois.
I am "awe-inspired!"