Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Day I Will Never Forget

Wednesday, the 22nd of May, 2013 is a day that is etched onto the canvas of my memory for the rest of time.  It began a day like any other, but every moment that ticked away on the clock brought a new mix of nervous excitement to the surface of my heightened emotions.  On this day, I was to marry.

I hadn´t seen Yoel since the evening before, and I wasn´t to see him again until I met him at the end of the aisle, to say our vows.  The day felt soooo long, but there was plenty for me to do.  Manicure, pedicure, hair, make-up... check.  Every minute that passed, I got more nervous, and more excited.  We were going with the flow.  I was still writing my vows until just before I was picked up.  There had been no rehearsal; no plan.  We picked the day and the location the weekend before, and were making the rest up on the fly.  I wouldn't want it any other way.

The beach was stunning, and we set up ceremony just feet away from the crashing waves.  The day was hot and dry, but slightly cloudly, perfectly bringing the temperature down a few notches and giving us a beautiful backdrop for our photos.  Yoel was clad in all-white beach attire, and I had on a white bikini underneath my white sarong dress, which I later tied in varying styles.  I always said I would get married on a tropical beach in a white bikini :)  The whole day had a casual and laid-back feel, although the weight of the covenant we were making was evident to us all.

I walked down the longest aisle ever, swatting at mosquitoes all the while (the one thing they never mention in exotic beach weddings at sunset...).  Finally, from the top of a slight hill, I made my way down to where Yoel was waiting for me.  The pastor read Scripture, we spoke out our own vows, followed by the traditional wedding "until death do us part".  Rings were exchanged, a unity candle lit (though with a beach breeze that proved to be a slight challenge), and we were pronounced husband and wife - Mr. and Mrs. Marrero.

Celebrating with a champagne toast, fresh tropical fruit, and snacks followed a photo session on the beach before the sun completely disappeared below the horizon.  Married.  Forever.

It was the wedding of my dreams - better than I had ever imagined!  The best part was marrying the man I love, who seems to have been made just for me ;)  I couldn't ask for more...

A special thanks to Alpha studio in Trinidad de Cuba for the wonderful photography.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Eat patat!

Eat patat.
Eat patat.
I recognized that whisper as the voice of God, but surely I was mixing in my own words or desires; God couldn't possibly be asking me to break my fast and eat patat, especially when it sounded so good... definitely a temptation; a test.
What's wrong? Why won't you do it? What are you waiting for?
Well, I can't. I'm fasting. It's tempting, but the answer is no.”
It wasn't a suggestion, Stephanie. I am telling you to go order patat. I want to share it with you...
Absurd. Outrageous. A God who wants me to order French Fries... really?!
Fine. I'll do it. But I'll have You know that I'm not to blame for breaking my fast! This wasn't my idea, but Yours!” (Indignation).

I ordered a plate of hot, crispy French Fries, with a glob of mayonnaise on the side, and took a seat on the sand, in plain view of the sea.  The waves crashed onto the shore in rhythmic synchronization, soothing to my restless soul, while the sun shone brightly in the blue sky, making the water sparkle and shine.  I gave thanks and put the first salty, deep-fried chunk of goodness into my mouth, all the while wondering why God had asked me to eat...

Don't you see? It's not about the food. I wanted to show you that I know what you want... and I care. It's My pleasure to give you good things. I am for you, not against you. My desire is to bless you; what's on your heart matters!
Well, the deepest longing of my heart isn't exactly a plate of French Fries, but I can see where this is going...
Then why the fasting?”
The fasting was a call for you to come to Me.  It's not supposed to be something you do out of duty, but a deep thirst for more - a holy dissatisfaction.  I want you to desire Me more than you desire indulging yourself. I want to be more important than food. You wouldn't have come here today if you hadn't set aside special time for Me. You would have been too busy, and I wouldn't have been able to show you that I care about your heart...

It's true. I put off fasting because who really likes to go without food?! I finally gave in, and when I woke up today, I followed that whisper in my heart to go to the beach. “We're not in tropical paradise here, God” was my response, but the whisper in my heart kept calling me to the shore. On a whim, I decided to follow it; after all, I was fasting and had no other plans. The five hours I spent at the beach were like a tropical vacation to my soul. What I really needed was just to connect with my Creator. To stop and listen; to know that He cares about my heart. I didn't leave the country. I wasn't gone overnight. All I had to eat or drink was a simple plate of patat. My “vacation-in-a-day” cost a grand total of 15 euros and 20 cents, yet I learned a truth that I won't soon forget, and my soul feels refreshed! God never ceases to surprise me... French Fries. He cares about my heart; and what I want matters to Him!

Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)

Saturday, January 19, 2013


            I could not have asked for a better birthday celebration than I had this year in Cuba.  I turned 25 this past Monday, but the party felt like a quinciñiera, a Latino tradition along the lines of a gsweet 16h birthday bash.  My Cuban family in Trinidad went all out!
            I slept in (of course), only to wake up to a tropical breakfast spread of diced fruit, fresh guava juice, strong Cuban coffee, and a toasted ham and cheese sandwich.  The sun was out in full force, greeting me with warm hugs and kisses :)  Pure ecstasy.  Before I had even finished eating, my very own dance teacher showed up to congratulate me and give me two hours of private instruction.  I've met a few dancers in my lifetime, but he's one of the best.  What more could I possibly want for my birthday than a couple hours of solid dancing with a pro?!
            When the class was over, I took a quick shower and my Cuban mom and sister took me for a manicure and pedicure – full service.  I needed my nails to match my dress ;)  My mom disappeared for a minute, only to return with a little bag of chicharritas (basically thin banana chips) my favorite!  The streets are full of people and activity this week because it happens to be “Semana de la Cultura”, which is a week-long festival of street vendors, markets, Art, live music, and dancing every night.  It happens to fall on the week that I am here – fantastic.  I've never experienced such an efficient nail treatment, but the girl was accurate and quick!  The whole thing cost about 50 American cents... not too shabby.
            Back home to shower and get ready for the evening.  We had a photographer come to take pictures of all of us individually and as a group.  There was a beautiful cake, snacks and appetizers, and a case of cold Bucanero beer for everyone!  The evening was spent with people dropping by, having a delicious dinner together, and then, I hit the streets!  Danced, danced, danced the night away... A quarter of a century.  I may be older, but I don't feel it at all!  :D

This is where I tried to insert a photo... but uploading a photo with a Cuban internet connection?!  Forget it.  I´m patient, but I´ve put several hours into this process already and still no success... Pictures to come...

            Cuba has been incredible thus far.  I think half of La Habana knows me.  I walk through Centro Habana and say hi to people as if I've lived there my whole life.  Not a day has passed that I don't meet someone new, make a friend, and exchange contact info.  It's January – winter – but warm as can be and sunny every day.  Es Cuba!  :)

Friday, January 11, 2013


Here in the middle of paradise, I enjoyed dinner under a thick canopy of midnight blue sky, speckled with hundreds of bright stars and lined with tall, silent, noble palms.  In the distance I hear the shaking of maracas, and the beat of salsa penetrates deep into my body.  The sounds of laughter and merry-making drift in and out, hushed only by the serenity of the night.  A light tropical breeze brushes over my skin, taking the edge off the warm humidity.  A deep breath of fresh air.  All is well, all is right.  Viñales is a tropical paradise of picturesque hills and luscious greenery. 

Friday, January 4, 2013


Mexico was fun.  It always is.  This was such a short visit, but nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed it!  It was my first time to Puebla, on a quick layover to visit my friends Marnie and Abbey.  Marnie's flight was canceled last minute and delayed two full days (who does that?!), so it ended up being just Abbey and I for New Years.  I have to say, Puebla is not exactly a happening spot.  After wandering the deserted streets for nearly an hour, we finally found a hamburger/hot dog stand that offered us some impromptu tacos.  Not exactly how I was planning to spend New Year's Eve, but it had to do... The bright side?  I had great company :)
The next day wasn't a whole heap better, but I will say this for Puebla: I relaxed, rested, and got some internet stuff done.  Besides that, I had a wonderful time with great friends.  The food was good (as always in Mexico) and the view of the volcano Popocateptl was pretty sweet...

Churros in the Plaza with Abbey

Una cemita!
What I seem to keep forgetting is how much I like Mexico City.  I could live there.  People are EVERYWHERE.  When I arrived on the bus from Puebla, it was immediately evident in the pile-up of traffic... I don't know how they do it!
I made it to a sketchy hostel in a neighborhood behind the airport, dropped my bag, locked up all my valuables as best I could, and hit the streets!  Riding the metro was a hoot; people coming through with their boomboxes, selling stuff, the works.  I met a nice guy going my direction who whisked me through the maze of subway station stairs and corridors, and before I knew it, I was downtown!  A live Cuban band, and a room full of dancers :)  *Happy place*  Some last minute emails, a hot shower, and a half-hour nap was all that I had time for before my 8:45 a.m. Cubana flight... Have to arrive early to those things!  Needless to say, it's 9:15 a.m. as I sit here writing, and we are definitely not on board the plane... Nope, not even an announcement.  I heard someone say our plane was in Veracruz, Mexico.  The screen is still flashing "8:45 On Time".  Guess not.  Welcome to Cuban Airways.  Just a little reminder of what the next month will be like...  A lot of waiting :)  That's okay. I can deal with it.  I'm prepared.  It's worth it!  Let's see what time I get there (and if my ride is still waiting on the other end)...