This is part one of my interview with author Marybeth Haydon. You can learn more about Marybeth at the end of this interview.
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 Wilderness Training, a series 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 is 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, and I can laugh about it now. 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.
Marybeth is the author of: Wilderness Training: The Novice and Wilderness Training 2: The Intermediate. Marybeth is an avid follower of Jesus, and an avid outdoors enthusiast. You can visit Marybeth at: Wilderness Training and you can also connect with her on Twitter