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The Facts of Lisa's Life
How Lisa Whelchel Finds a
Sense of Belonging

Nichelle Clayton and Doug Barnes

Ask Lisa Whelchel what she's been doing with her career since "The Facts of Life" wrapped up in 1988, and she'll tell you her current role is the biggest opportunity of her life. The setting is sunny California, and there's a beautiful mom, a handsome dad, three lovely kids and a family dog. The minivan parked in the driveway says "typical American family." Their story is sometimes funny, a little hectic and touched by sadness and joy. Sound like real life? It is. Lisa has chosen the real-life role of a stay-at-home mom.

I didn't know what to expect as I dialed that phone number. I must admit the image of Blair Warner - immaculately dressed and coiffed - came to mind. What could I possibly have in common with Blair, the wealthy and sometimes snobbish socialite? As her phone rang, I quickly reminded myself that Blair was just a character. But who is the real Lisa Whelchel?

When I heard the recorded message on the other end of the line, I immediately felt at ease. "This is the home of Steve and Lisa," the voice on the machine said, with three small voices chiming in, "...and Tucker, and Haven, and Clancy!" That was my first clue that Lisa (who now goes by her married name, Cauble) is nothing like Blair.

As I talked to her later, I was amazed by the simple life she leads. Now married to pastor Steve Cauble, Lisa's more likely to be spotted in the supermarkets around her home in Santa Clarita, Calif., than on "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous." Lisa homeschools her three kids, Tucker, 8, Haven, 7, and Clancy, 6. And in this new role, Lisa believes it's what's on the inside that counts. Lisa says her family is the most important thing in her life - and her actions speak as loudly as her words.

The Facts of Change

When asked how her life has changed since "The Facts of Lie" ended after nine seasons, Lisa laughs. "I can't think of one thing that's the same, " she says. "Everything is different. I was single; now I'm married. And over the last 10 years I've gone from being very rich to living on a pastor's salary."

Though she did some investing during her career, those investments dried up within a few years. Lisa chalks it up to a learning experience. "Learning how to live on Steve's salary had been good. I always had money because I started working when I was 12 years old. It's been nice to learn to really appreciate the things we have."

"Money wasn't a bad thing, I enjoyed lots of opportunities," Lisa says about her single years. "But now I realize it's much sweeter having just one cookie a day than a whole bag of cookies."

And money's not the only thing that's changes. "I've gone from having a circle of people serving me - makeup artists, hair peoples, writers, producers, cameramen and fans - to being the one serving others - my kids, my husband and my neighbors."

So how has Lisa handled this transition from being the one take care of to taking care of others? "Having three babies in three years kept me pretty busy. So I really didn't have a difficult time. And there's fulfillment in being involved in the lives of my neighbors and friends."

The Facts of Family

When it comes to her family life, one word could sum up Lisa's goal: simplicity . In a time when many parent sign their children up for enough extracurricular activities to fill a thick day-planner, Lisa has taken a step back to focus on the things that really matter.

"I've learned to put value on simply providing a stable life and that means establishing routines. When my children were little, routine meant their afternoon naps." Now that they're homeschooling, Lisa's children get lessons in language arts, history, science, and math four mornings a week, with afternoons off for reading, computers and play. Steve's day off, Monday, is set aside for family field trips and errands.

Lisa - who left public school after sixth grade, was tutored on the set of "The Facts of Life" and earned her high school diploma by age 16 - is a great teacher. Steve says, "Lisa was basically homeschooled herself, so she really know how important structure is; her patience with the kids is amazing."

Sticking to a routine has other benefits, too. It not only affords the Caubles plenty of family time, it also provides an opportunity for Steve's and Lisa's own quiet moments. "We've gotten into a certain routine at night. Our kids go to bed at 7:00, 7:30 and 8:00 p.m., so my husband and I have some time to be together," Lisa says. "Overall, I would describe my family life today as joyous and peaceful."

But what about Lisa's professional life? Does she feel she's neglecting her talents? Or is she shortchanging her community by turning her focus inward?

"This may be the least flashy of choices," Lisa says, "but it's the best choice for this time in our lives."

The Facts of Marriage

While "The Facts of Life" was still in production, Lisa attended the church where Steve is on staff. They were both part of a small group that gathered weekly to pray. Lisa and Steve developed a close friendship that turned to love about two years later.

Three children came quickly to the young couple, who already were faced with the normal pressures and changes of a new marriage. Lisa admits that family life hasn't always been perfect. In fact, Lisa describes the fourth year of her marriage as a really tough season. "During that time," Lisa says, "I suddenly realized, Steve's not everything I thought he was going to be. And I'm sure he was thinking, Lisa's not everything I thought she was going to be. "

Lisa knew she had to make a decision. "I could keep my focus on how I might change him to be everything I want him to be. Or I could change and adapt myself for my family and in the process become the best mom and wife I could be. That's when we started to make some progress."

The Facts of Opportunity

But a wind of change is in the air. Lisa says, "It appears that in the next year the doors will fling open to a new path-a path I didn't even know was there."

As Lisa prepares lunch for the "The Good Medicine Club", she asks Steve, "Have you told them about the family dream?" The "family dream," as Steve explains it, is to embark on a new adventure in the summer of 2000. Steve will take a year off from work so their family can travel the country via motor home. The reason for the trip? Lisa has written a book called Beyond Bible Stories , which she hopes will be released that summer. Her plan is to promote the book while speaking at churches and homeschool conventions.

"Along the way," Lisa says, "we'll be able to share the beauty of our country, visiting places we've read about in history lessons and just spending time together as a family."

The Facts of Belonging

Keeping their routines intact on the road may be challenging, but there's one thing Lisa's not willing to give up.

"I get up early to enjoy the quiet of the morning and read my Bible. When you have three children, quiet time is sometimes hard to come by. Some mornings I just have time to ask, 'Lord, help me through the day.'

"But every morning I need time to refocus. I need to be refueled. I can't just do it on Sunday, that's not enough," Lisa says. "The world is chaotic, and it's too confusing. I need to keep an eternal perspective. The choices I make for my life cannot be dictated by what the world says it important.

"I realize that most of my impulses and inclinations are toward temporary satisfaction. So before I make choices, I need to stop and ask, 'How will this affect eternity,' instead of thinking about what would be the most fun right now."

Lisa feels here quiet time allows her to develop her own sense of belonging, which she defines this way: "A sense of belonging is what you have when you take away - layer by layer - the clutter of the world, the blessings of the family, even who you think you are and ask, 'What's at the very center?' If you don't know what that is, you probably don't have a sense of belonging," Lisa says. "If Jesus is at the center, then there is no question."

The facts of Lisa's life seem pretty clear: The only similarity between Blair Warner and Lisa Whelchel Cauble is the blonde hair, brown eyes and pretty face. Family is what's important to Lisa, and she's committed to herself to putting them first. Thought Lisa considers returning to acting someday, she's content with the season of life she's in today. And who could argue with that?

It seems Lisa has learned the true facts of life.


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