To hear the lilt and laughter in Joyce Fincher's voice, one could never imagine that this delightful Covington woman has experienced more heartbreak and tragedy in her life than that of two or three other people combined.
Her life story is filled with unexpected losses, brushes with death and crushing disappointments. But with an attitude that says, "If not for the darkness of some joyless days, God's light would not be so bright," Fincher has pressed ahead and is now sharing her story of victory in Jesus by writing her first book, which is titled "He'll Lead You Through Your Sea."
Published by CrossBooks, a division of LifeWay, Fincher's book reads like an intimate meeting with the author, who shares her experiences in such a natural and conversational way that it feels as if the writer is almost sitting there beside the reader simply telling her story.
Mixed with humor, Scripture and encouragement, Fincher's book offers words of wisdom and hope to those who find themselves in difficult situations.
"I'm a firm believer that Christians need to have joy," Fincher said. "They need to show that they're happy. Believe me, with those things I wrote about in the book, I could have easily crawled into a corner and said, 'Leave me alone.' But God didn't want me to do that."
A native of Newton County, Fincher grew up in Porterdale. She graduated from Newton High School and got engaged to her high school boyfriend six months later. The couple wed the following year, 1956, and began their marriage by moving across the country where Walker Fincher was to report for duty with the U.S. Navy in California.
Joyce Fincher, 19 at the time, shares her story of the fears and loneliness of a young Southern bride who finds herself far from home and whose husband is away on duty much of the time. While this story is poignant, it pales in comparison to what Fincher would face as the years unfolded.
After 13 years of marriage, the Walkers were thrilled to find out they were expecting a baby. Preparations were made and their families were excited. However, through a difficult pregnancy, Fincher experienced great sickness and health issues that worsened as her due date drew near. Three weeks after the due date, Fincher was getting sicker and weaker and was admitted to the hospital.
The doctor discovered Fincher was suffering from hepatitis. He wanted to delay the baby's arrival as long as possible in order to treat the disease in the hopes of saving both mother and baby. However, labor began and Fincher later wrote, "This was the beginning of an experience that left a mark on our lives that can never be erased or made easier by time or events."
She begins one chapter of her book with the heartbreaking words: "At 7:58 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 4, 1970, our beautiful son, Walker David Fincher, was born -- and died."
Fincher writes how she was "one breath away" from death herself. After learning her baby had died, she experienced the depths of sadness, disappointment, guilt and failure. She was unable to attend her baby's funeral two days later and continued to experience health setbacks during her long hospitalization.
When she was finally better and able to return to work, it was painful to see other friends and family members who had new babies and, in fact, when her niece had her first child, a little boy, it was four months before Fincher finally felt strong enough to see the baby.
Fincher writes about having created a "little black box" within herself "packed so tightly with extra baggage that included sorrow, guilt, hurt, anger, and jealously. You name it, it was in this little black box."
Two years of suffering and continually asking God "why" followed and then Fincher realized she had finally had enough.
"The battle was on," she writes. "Satan was telling me that I needed to hold on to this baggage and God was saying to let go. He had wonderful things planned ahead.
"I had to let go so that he could place those blessings on my life and the only way this could be accomplished was to let God lift me above the sea of despair so Satan could not drag me under."
Three months after reaching her limit and praying a special prayer asking God to get rid of what she calls her "extra baggage," Fincher discovered she was again expecting a baby. On Feb. 22, 1973, Philip Bradley Fincher was born.
Now the pastor of Savannah Christian Church, Rev. Fincher and his wife Tiffanie are expecting a baby boy in January -- Joyce Fincher's first grandchild. She recently visited the couple in Savannah and took along her son's colonial cradle which was a gift to her from her fellow Mobil Chemical Co., employees when she gave birth to him years ago.
It was Philip Fincher who penned a song by the same title as his mother's book, "He'll Lead You Through Your Sea." The words of the song are in Joyce Fincher's book, as are other stories of how her faith has helped her move beyond crushing tragedies, such as the accidental death of her husband when their son was only 12 years old.
Fincher retired from Mobil Chemical after 27 years of service then became the office manager for the UGA's Newton County Extension Office, retiring from there in 2007.
She has always enjoyed writing, but several years ago she began keeping a journal, which later became the foundation for her book. She wrote inspirational articles for the local newspaper and has written a number of devotionals for LifeWay's "Open Windows" publication.
Fincher also writes a devotional article for the newsletter for extension office secretaries. The author serves as president of the East Metro Atlanta Christian Writers and, in 2009, was recipient of the Writer of the Year Award.
Since publication of her book, Fincher has held book signings in Charleston, S.C. and Savannah. She will have a book signing today in Porterdale at the Porterdale Reunion beginning at 10 a.m. She will sign her book at LifeWay in Conyers on Sept. 3, beginning at 11:30 a.m.
Books are available at LifeWay, Newton Medical Center's gift shop, online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and on Kindle, as well as by visiting www.joycefincher.com. Fincher is also in demand as an inspirational speaker and is available for mother-daughter banquets and other events.
In addition to working on her second book, Fincher is active in Porterdale Baptist Church, where she has attended all her life. She teaches an adult Sunday School Class, sings in the choir and is the church outreach director. She is also a member of the Porterdale Woman's Club.
"It's a journey I'm loving to be on," Fincher said about her experiences as a published author. "It's just amazing what God can bring you through when you let him."
"He'll Lead You Through Your Sea" shares the same message Fincher's son wrote in his song by the same name: "Are you faced with daily problems that to you seem so large? Just back off the frontline and put Jesus up in charge.
"His word says he is with us, 'till the end he'll never leave. Just let him walk ahead of you, he'll lead you through your sea."