ICB: Marybeth I know you are a cancer survivor and have had some other close calls as well. Would you mind giving us a little background on yourself?
A: Thanks for asking, Greg. I’m a Spirit-filled Christian mother who has discovered an increasing love for the Lord while hiking in the wilderness. A breast cancer survivor, and was miraculously healed of lung cancer. I am now finding out why; to fall more deeply in love with my Lord and Savior and to share that and the joy of the journey with others. I also earned my certification as a Wilderness Leader during my recovery. I’ve written a series entitled Wilderness Training, detailing some of my times and trials in the wilderness and how the Lord is training me while I’m out among His creations.
ICB: How did you become interested in wilderness hiking, what was the attraction for you? How long have you been doing this?
A: I’ve been on trail a brief five-fantastic-years with a backpack full of exciting experiences since I averaged 2-3 hikes per work week, weather and seasons permitting. I started out walking an inner city 6-mile path in an attempt to lose weight and get healthy after my diagnosis but I was so disgusted by automobile fumes that I headed for the hills. Once there I discovered that I loved discovery. My imagination was engaged, my curiosity inflamed, I felt alive. My heart leapt with joy at the sight of deer, bobcat, fox or any wildlife. I was fascinated by their natural behaviors and instinctively began thanking the Lord for His most inventive and intricate creations. Then I began to notice the elaborate wilderness itself: the foliage, the hues, the depth the height, the seasons with the gifts that they allow, the complexity of it all, the inherent regeneration and multifaceted reproduction of it all. I was like a blind person who suddenly gained their sight!
ICB: In Wilderness Training the Novice you mention that you feel close to the Lord while hiking in the wilderness. I can relate to this as I have felt the same while walking in the woods especially when a stream is involved! What about being out in His creation, in the woods, or on the mountain trail really touches you and brings that special moment of realization that the Creator Himself is with you?
A: (Oh, I certainly “hear you” on the streams!) The awesomeness of the wilderness is like a magnet to my soul, a pulling and drawing-near to God that is certain and secure. Once I opened myself up to Him, whether through verbal praise, prayer or sitting still and comfortably alone; quiet before Him, I sensed that my Maker desired relationship. With me! In my early travels, I unwittingly experienced some dangerous mistakes. So I began to ask the Lord the night before my planned hike if whether it was a “go” or not. And He would speak to my spirit with a “go”, or a “no-go”. (I have to admit in the beginning I did pout somewhat when it was a “no”). Since only He knew what the future hike had in store, I figured I had better check with Papa/Abba before heading out. There was an understanding that He was not giving me permission to go by myself, but that the “go” hike was a joint venture. It wasn’t, “Yes, you go ahead.” It was, “Let’s go!” I also learned (the hard way) that even with a “go” that I still needed to use best practices and not just haphazardly march through the thick and thin of the trails. He taught me to remain diligent in continually listening to His direction and to use my God-given ability to reason, to be observant and to use the safety skills learned, when to continue in the direction I’m headed in, and when to take the alternate route. If I was hiking correctly, then I was continually “checking in” with Him for His input, a safety plan that I’m now applying to my life on or off trail. The first moment I realized that the Creator Himself was with me was when I, without forethought, began to speak praise to Him, inviting Him to share the wondrous experience with me. When I acknowledged that “all of this” was testament to His handiwork, He confirmed my awe and wonder to my spirit and a whole new dimension of our relationship blossomed. I’m still somewhat dumb-founded that GOD wants to share experiences with everyday, regular me. That He wants intimate involvement in every facet of my ordinary life. The fantastic thing Greg, is that He desires the same, intimate relationship, with each and every one of us. We need to respond to His leadings.
ICB: Marybeth, you mention a night-time decent down a trail, it had just rained so you are soaked, there is no way to bear-proof your food, and your feet are painfully blistered. You decide to hike down, somewhat afraid, and in pain. As you are walking you begin quoting Scripture…and all of a sudden you are laughing aloud all by yourself! As God’s presence fills and reassures you, you have a wonderful “God moment, or moments” here, would you elaborate on this for us?
Editor’s note: this story within the story was a powerful and moving moment, it just grabs you and you can feel some of Marybeth’s exhilaration yourself!
A: Oh, I’m smiling at the memory! Fire never felt so great, however brief and fleeting, nor did this new perspective on perspective. Greg, if I could only continuously keep the right perspective throughout my everyday life, that would be a very wonderful thing. To have His perspective on the wildernesses of daily events; diagnosis, challenges, insecurities, relationships, mounting bills, decisions, the list can be endless. He showed me that my wildernesses were both literal and spiritually symbolic. We all have “wilderness experiences”. They are the spiritual challenges, they are the physical challenges, and the emotional challenges to march on through, to conquer, to overcome, to win! I realized that He is training me while I’m in the wilderness. Through Him, I’m never alone in any of my road blocks, no matter how rocky or isolated the path. Keeping memorized scripture, scripture being the correct perspective since it’s His perspective, is an absolutely essential tool and He gave me scripture to proclaim that night. When I first asked Him if it was safe to leave, vs staying the enormity of His presence nearly blew me over, yet it was intensely gentle. He instructed me to focus on what was important which puzzled me momentarily and of course He knew that. He then impressed “perspective”. Wow. The JOY that His perspective brings is so liberating! Fear took a swift and total flight that night. With full assurance that He is with me, fear doesn’t have a leg to stand on. I don’t need its crippling influence; I’m all about enjoying Him in the moment, in all of my “moments”. I’m also very appreciative that I’m able to share it while in the wilds as well. That night, as with many other times, the spectacular joy of the Lord, and knowing that He was with me, moved seamlessly right into praise. And isn’t that why we were created? To bring Him the glory and praise that is so righteously His alone?
ICB: Marybeth you speak quite candidly in your book about an incident that occurred with your dad and then a couple others as well, all being violent. In what ways did these incidents change you? What did you take away from them?
A: First, that it’s truly a miracle that I’m even alive, all things considered. Secondly, I have been threatened with a gun way too many times. But I learned that the Lord has been with me through every one of those events, since He knew me even though I had not yet come to know Him. I did not fully realize it at the time but I had a choice to make, those events could be my stumbling stone or my stepping stone. The hard and threatening times forged an inner strength that I was later able to draw from, particularly while faced with danger in the wilderness. As I have been more diligent in seeking Him in my recent years, I see that His Hand has been on me my entire life, for which I am eternally grateful. This should give others who hear or read about it, hope. Hope because He cares so deeply, so spectacularly for each and every one of us, and to imagine that the God of the universe wants to talk to us, to be involved in our daily routines, our cares, our concerns, our very life. My only regret is that I did not get to know Him much sooner. I do not recommend putting it off.
ICB: In your book Wilderness Training the Novice, you mention the Lord healing you of the lymphedema that you were afflicted with. First, how did this divine deliverance make you feel?
Second, after you realized the Lord had healed you Marybeth, you were going to do something to “check up” on this healing. What did the Lord impress on you about this and how did you feel after what He impressed upon you?
A: He revealed, using a wildlife parallel that spoke personally to me, (which really enhanced the “light bulb moment”), that the lymphedema condition was an enemy of my body, the impact of that very clear truth at first confused and stunned me, then completely exhilarated me! His instruction to rebuke that condition made perfect sense. So I did, and He rewarded my faith and obedience. Then later, concern began to cloud my mind, I went off track with my “reality check”. If I didn’t treat the arm as I had been taught by my doctor, I would eventually lose that limb. To ignore the procedure I had been taught was a real leap of faith and I felt I was barely at a “hopping stage”. (Oh, me of little faith). I decided that I couldn’t be foolish about this, and to at minimum, measure the arm and compare that measurement to the unaffected arm every day for a while, just to be sure. Gently, (I’m crying now, snap!) He ever-so gently spoke to my spirit without judgment, “Do what you have to do. But know that I have healed you.” Oh man, I was instantly humbled, gently reproved, and I told Him how very sorry I was for my lack of faith. I felt that I had offended Him and His gift of flat-out miraculous healing and yet He was so loving and tender in telling me that I didn’t need “just to be sure.” I’m so grateful to Him. He is love, He does not hold grudges, He is forgiving, patient and does not take offense easily. He is the One and only good God! And He heals. Not only body, but imperatively, our souls.
ICB: Would you please tell us about the day you were leading a hike, the last one to receive your certification, a hike after having run afoul of a rattler on a previous hike?
Afterwards, when the group hike you were leading was finished, how did the sum total of the day’s events leave you feeling?
A: Greg, after previously standing on a rattlesnake, I was plagued with unreasonable fear, I was terrified of making the same dumb mistake and just how many more near-death events could I possibly escape? I even feared the phantom snake in my home, unable to get out of bed without turning on lights, sweating and shaking violently. I had greatly overreacted when a rattler warned me of its presence during a solo hike a few weeks after the incident and I really could not allow that to happen again. This day, as a leader, I needed to pilot calm and confidence. I’d trained for this and knew what precautions and safety steps to take. I had already led other group hikes; I knew how to adjust a hike to fit the group and how to make the outing a fun, educational and impressive event. I knew that I needed to approach the trail with composure for the good of the group and for my own sanity. The wilderness is no place for panic and high drama! I thought about this while driving to the trailhead, when suddenly from the foothill of the mountain, out shoots this white bird, flying past my vehicle and up and away. I’ve not seen white birds this size in this particular neck of the woods, not even in this part of the state. The manner in which this bird shot up and over my vehicle really was startling, notable. Simply pleased with another “chance” sighting, I continued my drive and went on to lead the hike with calm and assurance and, thankfully without any mishap. Later, the image of that white bird came back to me with important clarity. Then it hit me: it was a symbol of His Spirit in the form of a dove (just like in the Bible!) that His Spirit was with me and would guide and protect me and the members of the group. A sign that, as I listen to His promptings, I would not “meet” another rattle snake under my boot again. This is so profound, so very important: I was not to focus on what I did (that horrific, accidental misstep off trail, ending with standing on a rattler) but to focus on what He did! He protected me so obviously, no matter how much adrenalin was pumping, no way was I able to outrun that rattlers strike! God prevented that snakes fangs from penetrating me! He manifested His protection and care that day, (as well as in my past), and will continue to the rest of my days. He continues to be protective and in control as I submit to His will and instructions. I’m learning; it’s an ongoing process. End of the day feeling? Humbled. Humbled by His interest in me, in my life and in the lives that I touch. I recognize that my faith is stretching, growing. He’s actually nurturing my faith! We all have our tests-of-faith and once one has invited Jesus into their heart, into their lives, we are more than a conqueror through Him during those trials and faith-testers (which build more faith, how cool is that?). I can no longer imagine going through the various challenges that life or my health, presents without His interaction, His help. All I have to do is remember: It’s not what I did, but what He did! When memory wanders back to that situation, and it does quite frequently, when I’m tempted to shutter and focus on the mental picture of a big, fat, coiled snake under my boot, still feeling the softness under me as I put my weight onto the step, that memory turns. And what I see is His Hand closing that rattlers mouth, and holding it back from moving as I ran, screaming like an insane person, from it. He turned that near-fatal situation into an impressive faith-builder to last me the rest of my days! I only need to draw from that deep pool, that deep well of knowing that through Him, it is done, He’s got it handled. I’m liberated from having to judge or deciding whether the particular outcome is what I wanted or not, because He has only my best interest in Mind and only gives good gifts.
ICB: At the end of chapter sixteen, you launch into a great commentary on God that is so encouraging; this is just a small sample of that commentary from the book: “He has a multitude of different ways to reach you and me, an infinite number in fact; He knows what is most relevant to you.”
Is there anything you would like to add to this Marybeth?
A: Creative God certainly has a limitless supply of methods to best communicate to us. He knows what is most significant to each person and He responds Personally to each of our needs, big, small or in-between. He cares about the most infinitesimal thing in each of our lives; physically, spiritually, mentally. His Word tells us, and it is Jesus Who is speaking, that He even knows the number of hairs on our head. (Matt 10:30) That is knowing someone quite thoroughly! He knows precisely how to speak to each of us, what will “hit home” for each of us, He knows each of us that well! Our contribution in this is to listen for His promptings and directions (key: be obedient to them) and to have relationship with Him. Worship, love and an ever-increasing faith simply follows, naturally. Greg, when I piece together a quilt, I know precisely where the weak points are, where the strengths are. Because I created it, I know that quilt. From selecting the just-right materials, to cutting up that beautiful fabric, then re-shaping it, then piecing it all together, all of this to make a symphony of useful beauty. Then I join and unite top, insulating middle, and bottom together into a single, valuable, warm and pleasing unit. Something like that, He “pieces” us together (our experiences, skills, weaknesses, preferences, talents, etc) He knows our strengths and weaknesses because He created each of us, individually. He knows what makes us tick, He has been watching us all of our lives. He created each reader reading this, into a warm, useful, beautiful creature and He certainly knows what is most significant and important to us individually. What He does for me, He will do for others in a unique manner because He has limitless, intimate knowledge of the inner and outer workings of each of us. He has invested Himself into each of us and He wants to wrap His warming Self around us in harmonious relationship!
ICB: Marybeth, based on your life experiences, what is the one thing you would share with people who are going through any kind of serious struggle in their lives?
A: I acknowledge that every single one of us is facing a challenge or many challenges, of varying degrees; it’s called “life”. Some of our lives hold more serious issues than others, but each life is equally important in the Eyes of God. Whether our “survival skills” are enduring chemo, wilderness exploring, stress management, caring for a disabled loved one or just getting oneself up out of bed today to brave one’s individual battlefield, they are all excellent accomplishments. But until we broaden the parameters of those techniques with faith in God, they’re just techniques with limitations. We need to conquer our fears, expand our horizons, and think outside the parameters of our circumstances. We, each and every one, all need supernatural help, divine intervention, enduring faith, and a personal relationship with God. Let Him capture your heart. We were designed to need Him, that is why trying to go about it alone feels so insufficient, so off balance, so frustrating. As one who has struggled, and was rather independent about it? If I could change the past, I would so that I could include my participation in the battlefield of my life to be co-soldier with Christ. I can’t so I move forward and not alone anymore, but in vital union with Him. I sometimes look at my life as a big puzzle. All the pieces need to fit together for it to make sense. The people around me are pieces of that puzzle as well. My sister’s elbow fits snugly into my abdomen, my foot into my neighbors arm, etc. There is a Vital Piece to my puzzle of life that is needed in order to complete it. 99.99% of it is there, but without that one Piece, it’s incomplete. You can’t frame and truly appreciate an incomplete puzzle.
ICB: I want to thank you Marybeth for being gracious enough to do this interview!
Do you have some final thoughts you would like to share with our readers?
A: Greg, you are the gracious and generous one, and I justly appreciate the opportunity to chat with you and to be able to answer your insightful questions. Thank you for sharing this on your site. My desire is for anyone reading this who doesn’t already know, will come to know that the Lord Who is so good to Greg and to me, that He can be equally good to them. Getting to know Him is not a difficult thing but it is something that each of us must intentionally admit to 1) being a sinner, we have all sinned. 2) that each of us need a Savior, because good works won’t cut it, never has never will. 3) and that God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, equally God, to save us from eternal damnation. All we need to do is admit, repent and accept. As always, God has the perfect plan and He is waiting for our acceptance of it and of Him. Be blessed, my friends with happy, fulfilling pursuits both on & off trail!
Editor’s Note: Your book really did touch me Marybeth; I enjoyed it and will read your other ones as well. I felt a connection with you Marybeth, almost like I was there with you at times; your writing is very good. I was I admit brought to tears in some places. This book is a blessing for sure! I hope others will read what you have striven to impart, that God is a vital part of our lives, no He is the reason for our lives. May the readers be blessed by your stories, and by the obvious love you have for our Father. Greg
Pick up a copy of Marybeth’s book Wilderness Training: The Novice, for more information, please visit Marybeth’s home site here: http://ow.ly/gY1ER and visit her Facebook, get to to know this author a bit: http://ow.ly/hycIm
Visit Greg at http://ow.ly/hAVyU You will find his blogs truly inspirational, uplifting and you will be blessed for your efforts! And to see Part One of the interview: http://ow.ly/hAVcY Part Two: http://ow.ly/hAVhF