If I may start out by saying I am honored and delighted to have the opportunity to conduct monthly author interviews for FaithReaders.com! As a long-time member of FaithWriters.com, I can say that I know this new site will be a blessing to all who discover it.
One of the most challenging, yet exciting, aspects of this job will be choosing the authors to interview! Every couple of weeks I hope to post a conversation with a FaithWriters.com member. These interviews will give an up close and personal glimpse into the lives of some of our favorite writers at FaithWriters.com. You'll learn about their writing, their families, and their goals for the future. And through it all, you'll get to know their hearts.
To "KICK-OFF" the interview section of FaithReaders.com, I have chosen a woman that most of us know and love dearly. She is a very important and special part of FaithWriters; in fact, it could be said she is the heart of FaithWriters because of the warm and loving spirit she brings. I am thrilled to assist you in getting to know our own Deborah Porter a little bit better.
So what are we waiting for? Let's get started!
FR: Deb, start by telling us a little bit about yourself.
Deb Porter: Lynda, this is probably the hardest question you will ever ask me. One thing about my personality is that I'd much rather talk about you (or anyone else for that matter), than talk about myself. I think that's why a lot of people, who I consider friends, don't really know much about me, but I probably know a lot about them.
Well, I'm 46 years old and live on the western outskirts of the Sydney metropolitan area (in Australia). I've been married to Steve for 25 years this coming September, and we have two "children"—Kylie (21 and married to Nathan) and Matthew (19).
I consider it an incredible blessing to have been an "at home" wife/mother for most of my married life. Before I finished work to start a family (Kylie wasn't even on the radar back then), I was Secretary to the Director of Nursing at a large teaching hospital in Western Sydney. It was a fairly stressful job (putting it mildly), and I have to admit that I left rejoicing—but my secretarial days were far from over. Steve's a horticulturist and greenkeeper, and we started our own garden maintenance business when Matt was just a year old. Steve does the hard work, and I take care of the admin side. So my secretarial days never really came to an end—they just changed location (yay!).
Now I have my own business as well, Finesse Writing and Editing Service, which has really come about because of my work with FaithWriters. This is a constant source of amazement to me because I always said that I would NEVER go into business again (one is more than enough), but God had other plans. I'm so glad He did.
As far as my faith goes, I can't really put an exact date on when I became a Christian—but I remember the moment I fell in love with Jesus as though it happened yesterday. It was not long after we were married, and I was reading "The Robe" on the train to work at the hospital. I finished the last page as the train pulled into the station, and I knew I wanted Jesus more than anything else in my life. I still remember how it felt when I stepped off that train. I have never seen light so clear or bright in all my life. That was the moment of my conversion, but it took a couple more years before I was brave enough to tell Steve I wanted to go to church. His reaction? "OK, I'll come with you."
We've been living for the Lord ever since.
Last of all, I'm a writer—it's my passion. For me, there is nothing more precious than when something I write connects with the heart of a reader. What a privilege to be able to use words to encourage people to step into the fullness of everything God has for them, or to invite a hungry heart to taste and see that the Lord is good. It's humbling and fulfilling all rolled into one. I thrive on it.
FR: When did you develop your love for writing? Share with us some of your early writing experiences.
DEB: I have to admit I never thought I would be a writer, and yet, I've been writing in some form or other for as long as I can remember. It really only dawned on me fairly recently just how long this has been a part of me. As a child, I was always scribbling stories on little rainbow-colored notepads my grandmother kept on hand for when I visited. The thing was that I never wrote the stories—I drew them. I was no artist, believe me, but I went through page after page telling convoluted stories through pictures. I seem to remember lots of stories about people in flying bubble cars, traveling to big flying bubble houses in the sky. (Too much George Jetsen I think)
It's funny when you look back and can clearly see all the signs that a writer was in the making, but never noticed it at the time. I remember the day I sat down at Mum's old Remington typewriter and started pounding out a story about a journey to Atlantis. I think that one was inspired by a Donald Duck comic.
I've always been a bit of a loner and have never had any trouble amusing myself—mainly because I was always making up stories in my head. When I was about 15, Mum brought home one of those huge, old sewing pattern books. The ones you browse through in shops to find the patterns you want to buy. I remember spending hours and hours making up stories about the pictures on the pages. I was a weird kid, but never bored.
When I finally did start writing, for real, it came as naturally as breathing—almost instinctively. I will spend the rest of my life honing my skill, but I know God has given me an intuitive sense of what does and doesn't work. It would be impossible to convey how much I value that ability—not just as a writer, but also as an editor.
FR: You found FaithWriters back in 2001, before it was even named, "FaithWriters." How did you stumble upon the site and what made you stick around?
DEB: It's a bit of a long story. I started writing online back in 2000. It happened when someone sent me a link to an article one of their friends had written at a huge writers' site called Themestream. I went and read the article, and to be honest, I couldn't tell you a thing about it. But it was a turning point in my life.
Themestream was a secular writing site, with plenty of room for Christian articles. It was like FaithWriters on steroids. For the first time in my life I looked at something and thought, "Hey, I think I can do this."
I started writing there and quickly developed a following. Before long, I was given the job of looking after the very popular Christian Living section. The sense of community was wonderful, and the opportunity for me to encourage other writers, while establishing my own writing ministry, made it my favorite place on the Net.
Then, about ten months after I first found Themestream, it went bust—almost overnight. Although I had started a newsletter for my readers by then, and was about to start my own website, Breath of Fresh Air, I missed that sense of community and encouragement. There was another writers' site that jumped up to fill the gap, but it wasn't the same. Eventually, it too went bust. In the end, I just decided to focus on my newsletter and new website and shelve Themestream as a lovely memory, but a concept that couldn't survive financially.
A few months passed, and then one day someone told me about a new site for Christian writers, called FaithMania. I decided to sign up and posted an article, but that was about all—until I received an email from the owners of FaithMania saying they had outgrown the format of that site, and were starting a new site called FaithWriters.
I signed up immediately (the 11th member, to be exact) and have never regretted it. From the start, I knew there was something special about FaithWriters—and I was right. The community was small back then, but the heart was so good, as it is today. In fact, in my opinion, it has become so much better than Themestream ever was, thanks to the wisdom of the man at the helm, Scott Lindsay. He genuinely cares about the members, and that attitude flows down through everything. I have never come across a site like FaithWriters for heart and attitude toward members.
FR: Today you are "in charge" of many different areas of FaithWriters.com. How did you get so deeply involved?
DEB: Prior to May 2004, I was always "around" FaithWriters, popping in and out to leave a bit of encouragement on some new articles, and posting one of my own now and then. How long I'd stay each time really depended on my workload, but it was always good to come back and reconnect.
Back in September 2003, there were two big discussions among members on the relatively new FaithWriters message boards. One was about the possibility of having weekly winners for the fun writing challenge (which was completely member initiated at that time), and the other was about publishing a book of articles by FaithWriters members. I commented that it would make sense to tie the two things together--formalize the Challenge so that the best entries each week were recognized in some way, and then publish the winners in a FaithWriters book.
Then I disappeared for about seven months.
When I came back, I found my suggestion had become a reality. The first official Challenge had been running for about five months, but the very informal, unstructured system wasn't working at all well, and tensions were running a little high among members.
Straight away, I could see the problem, so took the very bold (for me) step of writing to FaithWriters and explaining why things weren't working, and suggesting a way to fix it.
The rest is history. I guess, in some ways, I became the solution by coordinating the Challenge from that time on and editing the books (along with looking after a few other bits and pieces around the site).
It really was a case of being in the right place, at the right time. I've loved FaithWriters from the beginning, and that's stronger today than it was back then. Working alongside Scott Lindsay (albeit from quite a distance) has been a delight and a privilege. It's been a joy to help him shape FaithWriters into what it has become today, and exciting to watch the plans unfolding for its future. FaithReaders is another great step in the FaithWriters journey, and I really do consider myself so blessed to have been connected with this wonderful ministry and service.
FR: You go by the name, Breathfreshair on the FaithWriters message boards. You also have your own website with the same name. Can you share what your ministry, Breath of Fresh Air, is all about?
DEB: When I first went online, many years ago, I found myself drawn to some of the email groups that were popular back then. Over and over again, members of these groups would comment that I was a "breath of fresh air."
Not long after that, I felt God stirring me to take the first steps into the plan He had for my life—which was to take a message of love, grace and encouragement, through word and song, to small churches all around the world. For a while I tried to come up with the right name for this ministry, but nothing seemed right.
Then one night, it hit—Breath of Fresh Air. Not because of me, but because of Christ, who is the ultimate breath of fresh air.
Every now and then, I go back and read my vision statement, and it still knocks my socks off. Back then, I couldn't for the life of me imagine how God was going to make it happen, but I knew He had put it on my heart, so I wrote it down. The awe-inspiring thing is that I see more and more of it coming to pass with every year that goes by.
Being a breath of fresh air is not always about saying sweet things and being nice. Some times it means going against the flow, but always communicating in a way that is gracious, loving and kind. For me, it's all about taking a deep breath of the Spirit, and then exhaling on the world.
I've had to let Breath of Fresh Air rest a little for the time being, as I get my business up and running, but it's far from forgotten. In fact, it's about to hit the airwaves here in Sydney, with the "Cool Country Gospel Hour—a Breath of Fresh Air" on Cool Country radio, 2KA, 1476 on the AM dial. Another amazing "God thing," particularly given that this is not a Christian radio station. That just makes it all the better, as far as I'm concerned.
FR: How exciting! But, I can't say I am surprised. It's so evident that God is working wonders through you. Another desire God gave you was to start your previously mentioned business, "Finesse Writing and Editing Services." How did that idea came to fruition?
DEB: Again, it was a "God thing," in His perfect timing.
As I mentioned earlier, I had always said I would never start my own business—but you can never say never when God's involved. Over the years, it's become fairly obvious to Steve and me that he can't continue forever in the line of work he's in. Steve's excellent at what he does, but it is taking a toll on his body.
For a long time we just shrugged our shoulders and resigned ourselves to the fact that there's not much we can do about it. Then, about 14 months ago, we made some fairly radical decisions and started preparing for a different future. At the moment, we're just taking one step at a time, but the ultimate goal is for Steve to move away from the manual labor of a garden maintenance business, and into more of a role where he can train others.
Part of our long term plan is to eventually move to an acre of land we bought as part of that radical decision making. It was straight after we paid the deposit on the land that I was hit by the idea of formalizing what I've been doing for years. It seemed to come out of nowhere, and surprisingly, I didn't run away from the idea. Instead, I got excited and Finesse was born. The wonderful thing is that it's a business that is fully transportable, so whenever the time comes for us to make that move, I can very easily take the business with me.
I really do believe that we reap what we sow—for good and bad. I never started helping FaithWriters with the goal to get anything in return. I just wanted to be a blessing to them and their members. But the wonderful thing is that God has poured back the blessing in so many ways. It would have been so hard to start a business like this without the endorsement and encouragement of FaithWriters. In return, I am thrilled to be able to link arms with them through such things as our co-sponsorship of the Page Turner Writing contest, and by providing discounted rates for editing to FaithWriters 500 members. God is so good.
FR: You are the one everyone seems to go to for help at FaithWriters.com. All over the message boards, we see the words, "ask Deb Porter," or, "this is a question that Debbie can answer." Your inbox must be jammed! How do you keep up with it all? And, be honest – are there times you just want to shut off your computer and not have to deal with it anymore?
DEB: I laughed out loud at this. YES! There are many times when I do want to hide when another "Just a quick question" type of email arrives. The questions may be quick, but I've discovered that the answers rarely are. But you know what? I wouldn't change it for anything. I know how much email Scott receives at FaithWriters, so if I can help take even a tiny percentage of that off his shoulders, then it's all worthwhile.
To be practical, though, there will probably come a time when I'm not quite as available as I am now. But God is already helping me to set people in place to carry the load. He is very faithful. Now I just have to learn to let some things go.
FR: But let's get real – you're an extremely busy lady! You coordinate various features of FaithWriters.com, including the popular Writing Challenge, the online magazine, and book reviews. You run an editing service, and a website. On top of that, you and your husband own a Garden Maintenance business, plus you head up Praise and Worship in your church.
I'm in awe! How do you do all of those things and still have time for your family?
DEB: Yikes! When I look at it like that, I think I'm in awe too—and that's not including the new radio program, or being a regular speaker at church.
Really, it all comes down to doing what you were created to do, being organized in the way you do it, and learning how to juggle. Thankfully I'm a pretty good multi-tasker, and administrative things come naturally. Even so, the only way I cope is by knowing that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I just have to make sure that I'm only doing what He wants me to do. I don't always get that right, and that's when I start dropping "balls."
From a relationship point of view, the best thing I did was invest in a laptop. The second best thing was to have it networked to my main computer and the internet. That's meant I can watch a movie or television with Steve of an evening, and be doing some of the more mundane jobs (tallying the ratings for the weekly Challenge for example) on my laptop at the same time. Spending time with my daughter is extremely important, particularly now she's married, and if my son is on for a talk, then he gets all my attention. Same with Steve—if he wants us to go for a drive or do something on the weekend, then that's what we do.
I just have to interject, here, that having a husband who is very supportive of the path I'm taking, has helped enormously. It would be impossible to do the things I do if he didn't give me the freedom to do them.
But, basically, when it comes right down to it, I'm a fairly driven person. It can be a weakness, but when God's the one doing the driving, it's a strength.
FR: Speaking of family, brag on them a little.
DEB: I really am so thankful for the family God has placed me in. Steve and I started going out when I was 16, so we've been together a long time. He's a man of integrity, and he isn't afraid to call a spade a spade. He's my life partner, and we've always been in unity when it comes to the important things. Even so, we definitely complete one another. He has strengths that I lack, and I provide the things that he needs (like someone who can send an email, for one thing).
Kylie and Matthew are our blessings. They are both great "kids." Kylie is my best girlfriend and she lights up a room with her smile. She was married to Nathan last July, and I miss her bubbly presence around the house. At 21, she still refers to our weekly day out together as "Mummy and Kylie Day." I hope she always does.
Matt graduated from high school last year, and is working casually for us during the day, and going to technical college at night to do the Certificate IV in Screen (which is about film and editing). It is so good to see him doing something he is absolutely passionate about. It has also been good to see him grow into his personality over the last few years. He has become a young man who can walk up to anyone and make conversation. Kylie is pretty much like that, too. They help put people at their ease, and I think that's the thing I admire most in them both.
FR: So what do you do for fun? And IS there time for fun?
DEB: I'm a bit odd in that I actually think my work is fun. Every day is an adventure, and you never really know what to expect. Mind you, some days are less fun than others.
Really, I'm someone with very simple pleasures. I love it when things are peaceful and I have a good book to read, or some cross-stitch to do. That's my idea of fun (remember, I said I was odd). Put me on a tropical island at the same time, and that would be bliss!
FR: Is there one particular aspect of your many FaithWriters duties that stands out as your favorite? One that you absolutely wouldn't give up?
DEB: I enjoy them all, but I think the Writing Challenge would be the hardest to give up. In some ways, it's my "baby." I've had the privilege of being allowed so much room to be able to shape it into what it is today. It would be hard to let that go.
The thing with the Challenge is that there is so much potential for it to hone skills and build confidence. I've seen the proof of it over the last few years. Many a raw writer has arrived at FaithWriters, jumped into the Challenge on a weekly basis, and gone from strength to strength as a result. Watching that happen, time and time again, is the perfect tonic for an encourager like me. That's why I love it.
FR: The first annual FaithWriters conference is going to take place in August of this year. You are making the extensive trip from Australia and are scheduled as one of the primary speakers. I, for one, can't wait to hear you share your heart about FaithWriters! Is there anything you can share about what you hope to accomplish through the conference?
DEB: Lynda, I can honestly say I can't wait to meet you face to face, and so many of my other FaithWriters friends. It's a huge trip for me, and I'm going to be making it on my own, which is really taking me out of my comfort zone, but I can't wait. You see, I've already had a little taste of what it should be like.
One weekend last August, a very small group of FaithWriters (six from Australia and one from New Zealand) got together for an informal conference. We all came away inspired and encouraged, as well as sealing the friendships we'd developed online. The success of that very small, totally unofficial conference was the thing that stirred FaithWriters to start planning for a major conference for 2007.
My greatest desire is that what the seven of us experienced at the little Aussie/Kiwi conference last year, will be seen at the FaithWriters Conference in Michigan in August—encouragement, inspiration, motivation, information, great fellowship and the opportunity to seal friendships. What more could we ask?
FR: Where do you see yourself, say, five years from now?
DEB: I can guess, but based on the turns my life has taken in the last five years, I'd probably be completely wrong, but here goes.
God willing, my business will be well established in five years time, and I may be able to take the first steps toward the next stage, which is starting a small publishing company linked to both Breath of Fresh Air and Finesse. The goal is to get the ball rolling with my own book, so it would be a wonderful merging of both my business and ministry—which is exactly the way I want it to be.
In five years time, I could be a grandmother (oh my!) and it's also possible that, by then, we may have moved into a new home on that acre of land. A lot can happen in half a decade. As far as I'm concerned, I'll still be at FaithWriters, but of course, that's up to God. The most important thing is that I continue down the path God has prepared for me and into the vision He's placed on my heart. He's already brought me so far in the years since I first sat down and put that scary vision on paper. I still don't know how He's going to make it happen, but I'm trusting Him to keep leading and opening doors. He hasn't let me down yet (and I don't expect He'll start now).
Wherever He leads, it really is an incredible adventure when you are following the one who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, more than we could ask or imagine.
Deb, through the years, you have obviously listened attentively to God's voice and have followed His lead. Because of it, you have been such a blessing to all of us at FaithWriters.com. I think I am speaking for everyone when I say I hope God keeps you there for many more years to come!
It's been my honor and privilege to chat with you. I've come away with a new understanding of just who Deb Porter is. Thanks so much for sharing your heart. Praying that God pours out His favor you as you begin your new radio ministry and on all of your future projects. If the past is any indication, I have no doubt He'll do just that!
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