Two Sisters, Two Weddings, Two Stories of Hope
If you follow me on Instagram, you probably know that my dear sister Elisa recently got married. I called it "the second best day of my life" and it truly was. Elisa and I were 32 and 33 when we said "I do" to the men we love, and I know that our stories offer hope to many of our single friends and family. But this post isn't really about that: it's about the gift of sisterly love, as expressed in the wedding toasts that Elisa and I wrote for each other.
Elisa's toast (as you will see when you read it) was completely Holy Spirit-inspired, to the point where several wedding guests approached me and said that it was by far the best wedding toast they'd ever heard. I have to agree. I was so humbled and moved by it, that when the time came to write my speech for her, I was afraid that I would never be able to honor her as well as she honored me. Fortunately, the Lord came through big time and gave me the words I needed to express to Elisa, her husband Thomas, and all of the guests present at their wedding, what an incredible woman she is (in case they didn't already know).
So, without further ado, here are our wedding toasts; I hope they bless you as much as they did us.
Elisa's Maid of Honor Toast, 12/29/17
There are so many things I could say about Christina. I could talk about her beauty, but you only have to look at her to know about that. I could go on about her intelligence and unquenchable pursuit of greater understanding of herself, others and the world around her, but you only have to talk with her for a few minutes or read her writing to become acquainted with this part of her. I could talk about her many years of teaching high school theology, but her many devoted students could speak more eloquently on that subject. I could go on and on about what an incredible daughter, sister, niece, cousin, and friend she is-but that would take up much more time than I have for this speech. I could tell you what an amazing dancer she is, but if you stick around you will see that for yourself.
So I am going to talk about her name. Christina: Follower of Christ. My wonderful parents could not have bestowed a more fitting name on my big sister than this. All of my life, in spite of how close or distant we were from one another, Christina has led me by her life and example, closer to Christ. She is able to do so because she stays so close to Him.
No matter what season of life Christina has gone through, she has persevered in her love and pursuit of a deeper relationship with Christ. She has sought to count the stars with Abraham through her relentless study of theology, she has knelt in homage before Him with the shepherds and Wisemen in Eucharistic adoration, she has doubted with Thomas, and walked on water with Peter in moments of great faith, she has preached the truth in season and out of season with St Paul, she has returned to the Father alongside the prodigal son every time she receives the Sacrament of Confession, and wiped the face of Jesus with Veronica through her service of those she encounters, and she has wept with our Blessed Mother Mary at the foot of the cross, in moments of sorrow, not knowing yet what glory lay before her, but trusting in His perfect plan for her life. And now we stand here with her in this great season of joy as she continues on this journey to Heaven with her helper. The one our Lord chose to walk by her side and to help her carry her crosses as Simon of Cyrene helped our Lord with His.
I often wondered what man would possibly be worthy of my amazing big sister. Who could be a suitable partner for this Follower of Christ? God always knows what He's about, and that's why He chose for her a Kristian: a man who bears the same name and knows this life is all preparation for heaven.
So here's to my beautiful, brilliant, teaching, dancing, holy sister and her groom: may our Lord bring them to Resurrection together after a life of great joy, perseverance and service to their Lord Jesus Christ.
Christina's Matron of Honor Toast, 7/22/17
Elisa and I both know what it’s like to wait on the Lord’s timing. We both watched our two younger siblings get married and start having babies before us. We watched so many of our friends do the same. We’ve waited on the Lord, not only to reveal our vocations, but also for healing that we so deeply prayed, hoped, longed, and worked for. But we waited differently.
I’m about as impatient as they come. When it came to my vocation, I did everything I could to change my single circumstances--from trying online dating to going on blind dates to going to every Catholic young adult event I could [Note: I do not think that it was wrong to do any of these things; it was my attitude toward them that was unhealthy]. I begged God to send me a husband...NOW. I got angry at him for delaying. And when I was quiet enough to pay attention, I could hear the Lord whispering to my heart: “Christina, Christina, you are worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. And Elisa has it.”
Elisa waited...differently. She waited on the Lord with the heart of Mary, the sister of Lazarus, who was content to sit at the feet of Jesus while her (I’m assuming older) sister Martha ran around trying to control everything. Elisa did this by spending hours (literally) in prayer, seeking solace from the Sacred Heart, sharing her pain and frustration with the Lord and his Mother. And she lived her single life so fruitfully, so beautifully, that I cannot wait to see what the Lord does through her marriage.
That said, Elisa did not wait without suffering. Elisa suffered with the heart of Mary Magdalene, whose feast we celebrate today, weeping outside of Jesus’ tomb, hoping against hope for the Resurrection, but still unable to know when or how it would happen. And while she waited, she trusted.
She trusted in the Lord with the heart of the Blessed Mother, whose “yes” reveals to us a young woman who knew that the Father would never ask anything of her that he wouldn’t equip her with the strength to do. And Elisa made Mary’s fiat her own, and showed her impatient big sister how to do the same.
Elisa loves Mary. In case you were unaware, the theme of this entire wedding is the Blessed Mother. The blue and white color scheme, the Marian hymn at Mass, the holy cards depicting the wedding of Mary and Joseph...but all of this makes complete sense if you know Elisa.
Elisa’s heart is so like Mary’s heart, in that her greatest desire is to bring Jesus and his love to the world.
She cannot see someone suffer without entering into their suffering (just ask any of her siblings, friends, parishioners, or the homeless population of Capitol Hill in DC) and doing what she can to alleviate it.
She cannot pass by a Catholic church and resist the opportunity to spend a moment (or two, or three, or four, or five) with Jesus.
She hates waking up early, but will do it if that’s her only way to get to daily Mass. She cannot help but share His love with those she encounters: by her unconditional acceptance, compassion, and/or delicious baked goods.
And at the end of the day, the message Elisa’s life speaks to the world is what Mary said to the waiters at the Wedding at Cana, “Do whatever He tells you.” Because she knows, and is a beautiful witness of the fact that it is only in Jesus that we can be truly satisfied.
Elisa has shown me--and countless others--what it looks like to be totally, completely, head-over-heels in love with Jesus and his Church. And I know that her faithfulness to the Lord through all of the years of waiting for this day will be counted unto her as righteousness.
Tommy, You are the answer to hours and hours of prayers, fasts, tears, and sacrifices. I know you know what a treasure you are getting in Elisa, and I want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for loving my sister so well. I’m proud to call you my brother.
Elisa, you are my dearest, darlingest soul sister and friend. I can’t imagine my life without you, and I’m so glad I don’t have to. I know I did nothing to deserve your presence in my life, but I’m so thankful that the Lord loved me enough to make you my sister. This is one of the happiest days of my life, hands down.
Let’s raise a glass to the newlyweds, who are living proof that nothing is impossible for God.
All photos by Leah Muse Photography.