The Casting Dock

Perspective illuminates the story.

I am inexpressibly thankful for perspective. I never fail to be encouraged when I look back over a chapter now finished in my life with a fresh perspective to see and appreciate the progression of the story. In retrospect, I can identify the elements of the story, observe its conflict and cast of characters and see how various qualities and nuances of the story were woven together to create this meaningful occurence in my life. In the midst of it all, however, knee deep in the story, I usually can’t see beyond my immediate experience. I may have a decent understanding of that current experience with all of its attached thoughts, feelings, and implications, but I can’t accurately place that experience into the greater framework of the story, because the story itself is still playing out.  All that to say, sometimes it’s challenging to be in the midst of the story, to feel and believe that a greater work is being done in you, that a meaningful story is being written, but to not yet see it in full. That’s what we call faith, my friend.

Obviously each of our lives is a great story, but within it are smaller chapters for different periods, and it is the chapters, once they conclude, that we can look back on with some perspective. This perspective gives us insights and truths to bring with us into the next chapter, to cling to and claim when we feel lost or alone in the midst of life’s next challenge.

Now, I’m only 25 so I don’t have many chapters to look back on yet, but I am profoundly grateful for the ones that I do have, particularly for what they have taught me about myself, about life, and about the character of God.

I have learned invaluable lessons from looking back on one aspect of an early chapter in my story. When I was seven years old my parents separated, ushering in about a decade plus of really really tough times on the family front. My mom was the champion holding it all together, sometimes only by a thread, but together nonetheless; how she managed that, I still have no idea.

As I look back on my childhood now, I am still poignantly aware of the challenges, questions, and pain along the way, but I have a more holistic perspective: I can see the silver linings, or perhaps more accurately, the saving grace woven throughout. More so than anything, I can see God’s hand of direction and faithfulness to both protect and restore my little broken spirit. That faithfulness really began here: when I was 10 years old I switched schools to the tiny, Christian school where my mom began teaching after the separation. Prior to this I was “raised Catholic” (in the loose sense) and went to public school, so this school and the associated church we began attending was my first exposure to the notion of Christianity. Obviously for that I am grateful. But the greatest blessing over the course of the 8 years that I attended this little school (and there were many blessings) was most decidedly one particular family: the Westerfields. They were one of God’s gifts of protection and restoration to me throughout this period. Their twin daughters and I became fast friends. Throughout middle school and high school we played sports together, went to school, church, camps, and on vacations together. Our lives were seriously and awesomely intertwined. And even though time, distance, and divergent life paths have gnawed away at that closeness, they are and will always be cherished friends for whom I am truly grateful.

But the best by-product of their friendship was the amount of time I spent at their house and/or around their family. See, Mr. Westerfield was the pastor at the church we attended and a powerful role model (for the record, Mrs. Westerfield is AWESOME too and I LOVE her but the male influence really stuck out during this time…). I spent countless hours at their house, and went on their annual vacation with them. I knew that family in and out and I knew firsthand that Mr. Westerfield was authentic, that the public persona he presented from the podium at church on Sunday was exactly congruent with his private persona. He was consistent. He lived by the principles that he espoused: he loved God, he loved his wife, he loved his kids, and he loved his congregation and fellow man, in that order, day in and day out, and it was evident. It is from him that I observed and learned firsthand what it looks like to be a man of God, enabling me to identify the qualities that I should prioritize when looking for my own spouse some day. And it is from that family that I learned what it looks like to have a strong, honest, Christ-centered marriage based on  honoring, respecting, and supporting your spouse as your partner in life.

I learn so much from observation, perhaps more so than by any other means. God knew that and He knew I was lacking the proper marriage relationship and family unit to observe how He intended those relationships to operate. So he provided me with the Westerfields. In the midst of my own confusion, anger, and pain, there was a greater game afoot. I see now that the Westerfields were a signifcant part of how God lovingly fathered me through this time, securing my identity first and foremost as His daughter. Being part of that family for so many years helped to heal the wounds imposed, intentionally or not, by my own family experience and restored my faith in the union of marriage. Along with the guidance and example of my mother, this incredible family provided me a framework in which to build my own life, and I must say I’ve started off impressively well with the sweet husband I chose. Naturally, therefore, I am so thankful to the Westerfields for welcoming me so wholeheartedly into the fold, and ultimately am so thankful to God for His sovereign hand of protection, restoration, and faithfulness. And simply for the story. With the perspective to fully appreciate it.

7 comments

1 Ashley { 12.06.10 at 7:47 am }

You definitely were and still are part of our family! God’s hand was for sure there holding you close to our family. Love you!

2 Rhonda { 12.06.10 at 9:04 am }

Wonderful testimony of God’s faithfulness to fill the voids and gaps that take us by surprise in life. You are blessed first and foremost by a mom who sacrificed everything to be the pillar for your family. You are blessed secondly by having a father figure in Mark that embodies what a Christian man should be like. Not all children torn apart by divorce have that amazing benefit. Some kids have a lonely path to adulthood with no adult males to take interest. That can be devastating except for one thing…God. He truly is a Father to the fatherless and kids that learn to hold His hand tightly are truly blessed as well. I am so grateful for men like Mark Westerfield who stepped in and provided you the example needed so that when you found a gem like Jerry…you knew to not let go. I am even more grateful for God who took children like mine that had no such investment and yet filled that void Himself. No matter our lot in life…God is good and gives His children what they need.

3 Pam Westerfield { 12.06.10 at 8:43 pm }

Goodness Lisa, you made me cry. We were the ones blessed to have you as part of our crew. Such good memories of games, overnighters, “the” camp out at Meridean, lake house times… and you are right there. We serve an amazing God who is always reaching out in love to us no matter how young or old we are. Again, we were the blessed ones for having you there! Love you girl!

4 noche { 12.06.10 at 11:52 pm }

You got it Lise! You couldn’t have picked a better role model for a husband and father(some day) of your children. God provided what was missing in your life and you were willing to accept His provision. I am so grateful for God for His loving care over us. I am so thankful to Mark, Pam and the entire Westerfield clan for opening their hearts and family to us. The legacy you spoke of at the robbing ceremony with Pam’s father at your side will be mirrored in yours and Jerry’s family. Mark and Pam(and Pam’s parents), without knowing, have changed the future legacy of the Stabile family. I know that both Mark and Pam are proud of the choices you’ve made and the Godly woman you’ve become; their efforts were not in vain. I’m even more proud of you.

5 Lisa { 12.07.10 at 4:14 pm }

Thanks for the feedback, guys…and Pam, I’m already looking forward to Westerfield game night extravaganza…

6 Mark { 12.07.10 at 5:13 pm }

I actually thought you were one of our daughters. Here are some memories…doughnuts on Saturday morning, butter on pop tarts, tube rides in the lake, ‘tighten those scrunchies’. Certain things in life are privileges and being a part of yours has been a great one. We love you and are ready for the games.

7 Lisa { 12.07.10 at 5:55 pm }

oh man, you guys and that giant vat of butter which Josh smeared like half an inch thick on pop tarts, I DO remember that…can’t say that’s something I took away from the Westerfield fam experience…tubing, on the other hand…

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