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The facts of life

A former television actress enjoys her current role best:
wife and homeschooling mom

By John W. Kennedy

For nine years, viewers of NBC’s Facts of Life watched Lisa Whelchel portray Blair Warner, a rich, pampered, good-looking boarding school student. Over the course of the situation comedy, she matured from a prep school teen-ager to a responsible adult. One of three actresses to stay on Facts of Life for its entire 1979-88 run, her character — by the end a law school student — ended up buying the financially troubled Eastland school for young women.

As Lisa finished the series, other acting offers awaited the talented actress, then 25. Instead, for the past decade, Lisa has been playing a role she believes has a higher calling: wife and mother. Lisa made the transition only two months after the final first-run episode aired in 1988. Since then she has gone by her married name, Lisa Cauble.

Lisa and Steve, both Christians since childhood, met at a prayer group at the 5,500-member Church on the Way in Van Nuys, Calif. Since 1982, Steve has been on the 24-member pastoral staff as director of information technologies and an administrative assistant to Pastor Jack Hayford. During a two-year period, Lisa and Steve became close friends.

"Her consistent prayer request was that the Lord would help her find the right husband, and we all fervently prayed," says Steve, 37 at the time of the marriage. Steve, the son of Foursquare pastors Curtis and Alice Cauble, earlier had spent a decade heading the music department, then as business administrator at a Bible college in Los Angeles.

After a year and a half of marriage, the Caubles had their first child. Within three years after the first birth, the Caubles had become a family of five. Today, son Tucker is 10 and daughters Haven and Clancy are 8 and 7. "They require so much attention, and it is something that I don’t want to delegate to somebody else," she says. "At first it was just keeping them fed and clean and dry, but now it’s trying to train them against the current of the world."

A native of Fort Worth, Texas, Lisa was put in an acting class when she was 7. Soon she was doing community theater. At 12, she landed a part in The New Mickey Mouse Club and moved to California. Over an 18-month period, she participated in 186 daily shows as one of a dozen mouseketeers. Her break of being cast as the wealthy princess on Facts of Life resulted from a turn of a phrase during a script reading.

"The character was originally supposed to be a fast-talking girl from Texas, and so that’s why they called me," Lisa says. "But there was one line in the audition that I read just a little bit snobbishly, and they liked it. So when they cast me, they had actually rewritten the part."

Lisa had been raised in a Christian home, and she committed her life to Christ at age 10. Her faith did not waver during Facts of Life. In fact, she used her celebrity recognition to give her testimony to teen-agers at churches and schools. As part of the touring, in 1984 she cowrote songs and recorded an album, "All Because of You," which hit the Christian music charts and garnered a Grammy nomination.

Lisa attended public school through elementary years, then had on-set tutors, which enabled her to graduate from high school at 16. The original motivation for homeschooling her children was financial. "We had assumed we would put our kids in a private Christian school, but then we had three so close together, and that’s just not possible on a pastor’s salary," Lisa says. "It’s just gotten better every year." Because of the children’s personalities and dispositions, Lisa believes the nurturing and biblical foundation that can be laid in homeschooling have been essential.

Lisa’s weekday mornings are spent teaching math, science and history, while the children read on their own in the afternoons. On Steve’s day off, Monday, the family takes field trips.

Television is not the center of the Cauble household. "There’s no time in our day to watch it," Lisa says. The Caubles live in a northern Los Angeles suburb. "There are other like-minded moms here and we’re working toward the same goal: raising our kids in the way of the Lord."

The Cauble kids have seen their mother on Facts of Life reruns. "They think it’s kind of neat, but then the novelty wears off," Lisa says. "They’d rather be outside playing."

Someday, when the children are grown, Lisa may consider a return to acting. "I still enjoy it, but it’s really not feasible at this time," she says. "It would require me to leave early in the morning and I wouldn’t get home until 6 or 6:30. Or, if I did movies, I’d be away for months at a time. It’s just not something I can consider right now."

Lisa does not believe she relinquished anything by leaving a life in front of cameras for a life of schoolbooks and dishes. "To me it wasn’t walking away from a great thing to a lesser thing," Lisa says. "It was really walking away from a great thing to a better thing. I’m thankful that I was able to experience a wonderful career and then be able to go from that to marrying a wonderful husband and having great children. That seems to be the ultimate calling."


John W. Kennedy is general editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

 

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