From Flower Child to God’s Child–A Surprising Turn Toward Christ
About the Guest
Today on the broadcast, well-known author and mother of 12, Barbara Curtis, talks with Dennis Rainey about coming of age in the 60's, her failed marriage to a like-minded flower child, and her spiritual quest for the truth that eventually led her to the Savior, Jesus Christ.
Barbara CurtisBarbara Curtis, mom of 12, has published over 1200 articles and 9 books. She currently writes for a blog to help moms find joy in their role as mothers. Barbara and her family reside in Virginia.
Barbara Curtis talks about her spiritual quest for the truth that eventually led her to the Savior, Jesus Christ.
From Flower Child to God’s Child–A Surprising Turn Toward Christ
Barbara: Well, you would have seen me in my flowing Indian garments, and, of course, my tattoos from the counter-culture days, and if you came early, you would have seen Trip and I sitting in Lotus position chanting and going into meditation and stuff.
People used to come to us for spiritual advice because it looked like we really had it all together, but behind closed doors, it was a different story, because Trip and I were so in harmony with the universe in every area except in our marriage.
We'd fight about everything. We fought about in-laws, we fought about business problems, we fought about how to raise the kids, what color to paint a room, how to pack the car, you name it. And I was pretty fed up. We couldn't seem to make our marriage work.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, March 27th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. It takes more than spiritually to make a marriage work. We'll find out more today.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. I was recently speaking in a local church, and I had a couple come up and introduce themselves to me, and they listened to FamilyLife Today, but the fun thing was to hear them reflect back on the first time they had been to one of the Weekend to Remember conferences that we host, because, for them, it was a marriage-changing event. It really realigned their marriage, and I remember them saying, "I know you probably hear this a lot. I hope it doesn't get boring," and I said, "No, it never gets boring to hear that God's at work in these conferences and changing people's lives." That's always exciting to hear.
Dennis: It really is, and our guest on FamilyLife Today is someone I personally have been looking forward to meeting for a number of years, because I first heard about her and her husband, Trip, on Focus on the Family. And it was kind of interesting, because this is how God, in His economy, works things out. And, well, let me introduce our listeners to Barbara Curtis. Many of our listeners will know her through her number of books that she has written. Some of you will remember her as a mother of 12 children, counter 'em.
Barbara: That's right.
Dennis: Twelve children ages 4 to 35, did I get that right?
Dennis: Four to 35, that's a spread.
Bob: That makes me want to take a nap.
Barbara: Me, too.
Dennis: And four of her children have Down syndrome, three of whom are adopted.
Barbara: That's right.
Dennis: Well, we want to talk about adoption, but a different kind of adoption. There was a spiritual adoption that took place in your life, but before we get to that, let's go all the way back to your family and where you grew up. You moved how many times in the first six years of your life?
Barbara: We moved seven times in the first six years of my life. I was born in Kansas City, lived in Fort Smith, Arkansas; Atlanta, Georgia; Rockford, Illinois; Fairbanks, Alaska; San Bernardino, California; and Long Beach, California before my dad decided to leave.
Dennis: And he left you and your mom and …
Barbara: My mom and – I was the oldest – and two younger brothers.
Dennis: And so he walked out.
Barbara: Yes. Well, and people used to say, "Was your dad in the service?" And I would say, "Yes," because I would be embarrassed at the time, but basically my dad was just a vagabond kind of guy who would run up bills in one city and move to another. When we moved down to California, my dad got involved with another woman and left my mom, and we traveled cross country to Washington, D.C. because my mom – well, they were both kind of country bumpkins, and my mom didn't have an education or anything, and she thought that if she moved to Washington she could get a job with the government.
When we got to Washington, there was another surprise, because my mom decided to put us up with a rural family. It was kind of like a foster-care situation but not like run by the state. It was something like "Les Miserables" and Cosette, because – to live with a family and the mom sends money. So unfortunately it was a very abusive situation for my brothers and for me, but God was with us even then. As a believer, I've come to see that even when God wasn't – I didn't know that God was part of my life, that He was really there, because we did eventually get rescued from that situation, and my mom did allow us to come home to live with her.
Bob: You came of age as a teenager in the early '60s, would that be right?
Barbara: Yes, I graduated from high school in 1965.
Bob: Okay, '65 was right at the beginning of a cultural revolution that you were swept into, right?
Dennis: Were you a flower child?
Barbara: Well, I would define myself more as a radical antiwar activist and part-time flower child.
I was more serious – being your oldest child, I was much more serious than just fun-driven, and so my interests were more in changing the world and taking radical positions. At the same time, there were some very positive things that God had planted in me that were seeing some fruition, which was that I had my first baby. Her name was Samantha Sunshine.
Dennis: Were you married at the time?
Barbara: I was married. I was married to a very nice man who was very kind to me and actually made up for a lot of the lack of love that I had grown up with and didn't deserve the treatment that he got later from me. I was radical feminist, I was a spokeswoman for the pro-abortion movement in Virginia, and I was pretty radical.
Then in 1972, I decided that it was time for a cultural change, and so I persuaded my husband then to move to San Francisco.
Bob: And so the family moves to San Francisco. When did your marriage start to fail?
Barbara: We moved to San Francisco. I had another baby named Jasmine Moondance and …
Dennis: Hold it, hold it.
Bob: Samantha Sunshine and Jasmine Moondance.
Bob: You were around in the '60s, weren't you?
Dennis: I was.
Dennis: It's just been a while since I've heard those names.
Barbara: You remember that song, Van Morrison …
Bob: [singing] "Marvelous night for the moondance" …
Barbara: That's right. So, anyway, shortly after Jasmine was born, I was introduced to cocaine, and it was – I fell madly in love with cocaine. It was more than anything I'd ever been in love with in my life, probably, and it's hard to explain, but it was a very empowering thing for me.
What I need to say is that there was a gigantic hole in my life, and I was trying to fill it, and I guess the farther, the older I got, the more power it actually had, because it wasn't being dealt with, and when cocaine came up in my life, it was an incredible escape. It made me feel very powerful, and probably delusional, because I thought that I could just do so much if I could just get rid of this stick-in-the-mud husband I had, and so I walked out on him.
And I guess in the end I ended up being like the person I most did not want to be like, and that was my mother. But I didn't see that then. What I saw was that I needed to make a change in my life because I realized something wasn't working, and I realized that I needed something more, and I did realize that what that something more was that I needed to find out about this "higher power" that they talked about.
So I went on a spiritual quest to find God, and that was when I met my husband Trip. He was also in the program; had been through kind of a similar background. He was seven years younger than I, and he'd never been married, and we immediately were attracted to each other mostly because we were on the same spiritual path, and so we used to meditate together every morning and have visions of our past lives and all this loony, new-age stuff.
Bob: Now, you're sober at this point.
Bob: You're not doing drugs at all?
Bob: But you're caught up in a spiritual quest that's taking you down all kinds of different paths?
Barbara: Right. We enjoyed the New Age because we could pick and choose the different things that we wanted to believe, and I think we had a Christian fish on our car, actually. It was kind of like a good luck symbol, but we would also have a statue of Buddha, we had pictures of different gurus that we followed, and we used all the New Age principles to take control of our lives and become more successful people. Like when we got married, we were very poor, but we started a business and became pretty wealthy and actually bought a house in Marin County, which was really incredible, and we had – after Samantha and Jasmine, we had three boys named Joshua, Matthew, and Benjamin.
Bob: Those are all biblical names.
Barbara: Funny about that, isn't it?
Bob: What was going on with that?
Barbara: I kind of see God smiling and leaving his fingerprints all over our early marriage that say, "You know what? This was all just the way I wanted it to be. I'm sorry it took you so long to get here, but now that you're here, you know that I loved you all along, and I really had a hand in your marriage and wanted to be here."
Dennis: And He was pursuing you every step of the way?
Barbara: Yes, just as a we were pursuing Him, but we just were so confused, and we had so many anti-Christian views that were just part of the stereotype, you know, of Christians. It wasn't as though I knew anything about Christianity or the Bible, it was just that I had accepted some cultural views about Christians as being hypocrites or stupid or whatever. I thought I would pursue these sophisticated Eastern religions, which, now, when I look back, it seems ridiculous, because you look at countries where Eastern religion is, and people live in poverty and aren't generous and kind to each other.
Bob: Now, I've got to be honest here, because there aren't a whole lot of folks who show up at the Weekend to Remember conference who are coming from where you were coming from. How did you get there?
Barbara: Well, I guess that's just part of God's plan. We were using all these New Age principles and creating this wonderful reality for ourselves with a successful business and everything. People used to come to us for spiritual advice because it looked like we really had it all together but behind closed doors it was a different story, because Trip and I were so in harmony with the universe in every area except in our marriage. We couldn't seem to make our marriage work. We'd fight about everything. We fought about in-laws, we fought about business problems, we fought about how to raise the kids, what color to paint a room, how to pack the car, you name it. And I was pretty fed up. I don't know if Trip even realized how fed up I was, but I had been a single mother before, and I was in the New Age, so I was not afraid to be independent, and I had come to a place inside where I just knew that I could – if this didn't stop, I was going to dump Trip. We were on the way to divorce.
And then one morning – I used to listen to Dr. Dobson because he had parenting advice, and I had five children, and I turned him on, as was my habit, to hear what he had to say, and who was on the show that day – it was Barbara and Dennis Rainey, and they were talking about this wonderful Weekend to Remember – the conference where people really got their marriages together and overcame problems and found healing for their broken marriages, and it was coming up that weekend in San Francisco.
And I thought, "Well, that's it. This is my last-ditch effort. I'm going to sign us up for this, and if it works, great, and if it doesn't, I'm going to kick this guy out." So I signed us up, and it was about an hour-and-a-half away from us. We fought all the way down, and the first night we talked about the, Dennis, there was the whole program about God's plan for marriage and the world's plan for marriage. Well, mine was right over with the world's plan for marriage.
Dennis: You were experiencing that.
Barbara: I was a radical feminist, you know, I was totally 50-50 if not more for me.
Bob: That's the problem with 50-50, isn't it? Our math isn't always as good as it ought to be.
Barbara: And then when you talked about how important marriages were in God's plan and how Satan was actively trying to destroy marriages, and that kind of rang a bell with me, because I had always thought that Satan was just a weird myth that Christians had, but it made sense that there had to be some force that was working against Trip and me, because we both had very good intentions, we loved each other, and we were actually nice people, I thought, but we couldn't get along.
Then the next day you went through the four spiritual laws. I think it was about 10:30 in the morning – "God loves you and has a plan for your life. You're separated from God by your sin, and Jesus was God's Son who was sent to build that bridge, and you can make a decision," and when I heard those words it was like, wow. First of all, it was so simple compared to any of the complexities I'd been into, but nobody had ever told me that Jesus was God's Son. That put everything in a different light. And then they said, "Well, if you want to, you could say this prayer," and so I was, like, "Yes, I want to say this prayer, yes. This is it, this is it." And so I said the prayer, and then I burst into tears, and I looked over at Trip, and he was crying, too, and we both knew something really profound had happened – probably the most profound thing that had ever happened in our lives, but we had no context to put it in, because we'd never been in a church, didn't have any Christian friends, didn't know the lingo, didn't know anything.
Bob: I want to make sure our listeners heard what you said – you were in your 30s at this point?
Barbara: I was 38.
Bob: And you said that you had never heard anyone say that Jesus was God's Son.
Barbara: You know, I go back, and I think, "Well, maybe someone said it, and I didn't hear it. Maybe – because maybe I was the rocky soil, because I had no foundation at home, I don't know. All I know is that was the first time I heard it.
Dennis: What I want to underscore is how a New Age couple found themselves seated in a hotel ballroom hearing about Jesus Christ and can make a decision in a matter of 10 to 15 minutes that can alter the very outcome of their lives.
Barbara: Isn't that amazing?
Dennis: Because you met the Savior, you meet the Redeemer, the One who changes our lives.
Barbara: That's so true, and everything after that – we didn't know what had happened to us. I mean, I couldn't have said, "Oh, I became a Christian."
Dennis: You didn't know you'd been born again?
Barbara: No, I didn't know that. We went home from the Christ, and we were like different people. We knew something had happened. We were talking about Jesus all the time, which everybody – our kids and everybody in our lives were, like, "Oh, my gosh, what are they into now?"
Dennis: They just thought it was another …
Barbara: Just another phase for Trip and Barbara.
Bob: Obviously, meeting Christ at the conference was the most transforming aspect of the conference. Did it have an impact immediately in your marriage?
Barbara: Yes, absolutely. It was as though a peace descended.
Dennis: You had been fighting over everything.
Barbara: Yes, we were so unified in this – in this – I don't know it was hard to explain. It's not as though we're all unified now or every minute, but it's like there was a certainty that our marriage was going to last forever, and a peace that things could, you know – it's hard to explain.
Bob: You know what you're trying to explain is what 2 Corinthians 5:17 teaches, which is if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature, a new creation. Old things are done away with, have passed away, and the new has come. That's what happened that weekend in your life.
Dennis: Well, you know, as I was listening to your story, I'm just beaming a big grin because you are who we wanted to serve at those events. We wanted to meet people at their point of need in their marriages and families, and invite them into a safe place, a hotel, where they could hear about the Bible, where they could hear about Jesus Christ, and then make their own decision, which you did, about Jesus Christ.
Bob: And, you know, it's interesting – we'll have anywhere from 3 percent to 5 percent of the people who attend a Weekend to Remember conference who, for the first time, will indicate that they've trusted Christ at the conference. We don't know how many people who come aren't Christians, because there's – you know, you can't do a blood test at the door or anything to confirm their spiritual identity. But we do know that 3 percent to 5 percent of the folks who come indicate back to us that they trusted Christ for the first time.
Dennis: And the thing that I wanted to highlight out of Barbara's testimony is that for those of us who are followers of Christ, we just need to pull back and look at our unbelieving friends; people who are not followers of Jesus Christ, and instead of looking down our noses at them and condemning them for their choices, like, "Isn't that silly to be worshiping a Buddha?" and "Why are you meditating and burning incense?" I mean, some of their choices are not quite as contrasted from ours. Some of their choices may just be foolish choices that we're watching them make. The point is, I want you to think of them as Barbara described herself – as having a giant hole in their hearts that can only be filled by the person of Christ.
And, you know, the message that Barbara embodies is that Jesus Christ cannot only fill that hole, He can change the life, change the values, and He can equip them to become a new creature and have an impact on their world – so much so we're sitting across the table here, Bob, I don't know if the contrast has quite hit you as well as you've listened to this story – but we're sitting across the table here with an author of a book entitled, "Dirty Dancing at the Prom and Other Challenges Christian Teens Face – How Parents can Help." It's a manual for helping parents raise teenagers who don't just survive the teenage years but helping your kids cope with the teenage years, and it all comes from a woman who came out of a background that would certainly be – well, it wouldn't be the kind of background you'd think would write a book like this.
Bob: No, I bet you couldn't have imagined 30 years ago that you'd be writing a parenting book and certainly not one that encourages modest dress and sexual abstinence, right?
Barbara: No, not at all. I was part of the counter-culture so, in a way, I feel kind of partly responsible and maybe this is God's way of letting me work off my debt – if He made us do such things.
Dennis: Barbara, I think you're still part of the counter-culture. You just switched sides.
Bob: A different part of the counter-culture, that's right.
Barbara: Yeah, but I had experience raising a child without any kind of morality, and my 35-year-old daughter, Samantha, was brought up under my first system of permissive parenting with no spiritual foundation at all, so, yeah, it's been a complete surprise to me that God would take me in this direction.
Dennis: Let's see, it was Jasmine Moon …
Dennis: Moondance and Samantha …
Bob: [singing] "Sunshine came softly to my" – you got it, right?
Dennis: It's been a while.
Bob: But you know what the common theme here is – it's the counter culture, because 30 years ago, 40 years ago, you were part of the counter-culture, and now you're a part of a different counter-culture, and you're reflecting that in what you've written here in your book, "Dirty Dancing at the Prom," which we've got in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and it connects up very well, Dennis, with what you and Barbara wrote in your book, "Parenting Today's Adolescent."
We've got both of these resources in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and I want to encourage our listeners – go online at FamilyLife.com and in the middle of the screen you'll see a big red button that says "Go," and if you click on that button, you can get information on how you can order Barbara's book or the book by Dennis and Barbara Rainey, "Parenting Today's Adolescent." If you order both books from us today, we'll send at no additional cost the CD audio of our conversation this week with Barbara Curtis.
Again, our website is FamilyLife.com, click the big red "Go" button in the middle of the screen, it will take you right where you need to go so you can get these resources. And there is also information on our website about the Weekend to Remember conferences that we're hosting in cities all across the country, and we talked about how 3 percent to 5 percent of the folks who are coming to these conferences don't know Christ – a lot of the couples who are coming know Christ but no one has ever explained to them what the Scriptures have to say about how to build a stronger marriage, and that's what we do at the Weekend to Remember conference.
In fact, you and I are going to be speaking, Dennis, along with your wife Barbara at the Weekend to Remember conference in Dallas, Texas, at the Gaylord Texan Hotel, and that's just one of dozens of conferences that are going to be taking place over the next several weeks.
If you want more information about the Weekend to Remember conference, again, go to our website, FamilyLife.com, click the "Go" button that we've talked about, and you'll find information about the Weekend to Remember conference there and, again, you can order copies of the book we've talked about today by Barbara Curtis called "Dirty Dancing at the Prom." You can also call 1-800-FLTODAY if you have any questions or if you'd like to place an order over the phone and find out more about the Weekend to Remember conference. The number, again, is 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. Or, again, go online at FamilyLife.com.
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Well, tomorrow Barbara Curtis is going to be back with us, and we're going to talk about how difficult it is for teenagers today, Christian teenagers, to stand for Christ in an increasingly godless culture. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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