When you meet Joyce Landorf Heatherley, whether in person or
through her multi-faceted life’s work, you are intellectually
and emotionally affected in many ways. Human ways.
Feelings, experiences, quiet strength, passion, courage, fear,
searing honesty, imperfections begin to surface…all of which you
surprisingly encounter from meeting one person. A woman who has
spent three decades making music, writing books, and speaking from
the podium, quite literally, to millions of readers, listeners and
There is a reason men and women from all around the globe find
themselves responding to this woman and her many creative and personal
A few minutes of conversation, or reading one of her books, or listening
to her speak at an engagement, or through the medium of her audios or
videos quickly melts the distance from us, the audience, to that woman
at the podium, or on the cover of the book, or behind the microphone.
You get the feeling Joyce Landorf Heatherley is one of us – the tribe of
human beings who are living into the millennium and trying to find
meaning in our lives, hope in a complex world, and healing through our
own faith, which sometimes seems so frail.
Joyce Landorf Heatherley writes and talks and sings for us the music of
the human heart. Her lyrics – reflected not only in the music, but told
to live audiences, transferred to audio and video, and printed in black
and white – strike through superficial pleasantries. Her muses revel in
slicing through to the heart of things:
Have you ever raged at God?
Have you had someone close to you die at the wrong time?
Did divorce make you lose confidence in relationships you thought were
Have you stood in the bathroom and looked in the mirror and thought you
were all alone and held the razor to your wrists?
Have you lost a child, lost your faith…thought you lost your mind?
Have you thrown off the trappings of your own worn-out values without
Have you been shunned by your peers?
Do you know what it feels like to have years of chronic pain so fierce
and deep and long that it shuts down your life?
In the midst of all these hard elements of life and death and terror and
tragedy and pain, have you discovered how to experience laughter?
Have you learned to relate to others in your life in ways that
Do you ever have rapturous thoughts?
The reason so many people are drawn to Joyce is that she shows so
clearly that she experiences life on life’s terms, just like the rest of
us. And from that she communicates a foundation of faith and hope that
is real. And by her words and manner, she convinces us that we can do it
It Didn't Start That Way...
During the nine months before Joyce was born, America
was gripped in the cold realities of the Great Depression. Even before
then, the sounds of music and prayer were introduced to her in a special
Clifford Miller, the young minister, spent almost every evening bending
over his pregnant wife singing gospel songs like The Love of God
in his clear baritone voice; coaxing sweet music out of his violin -
bathing his unborn child in the beauty of music.
Marion Miller, the about-to-be mother, though ill and confined to her
bed, was unshakeable in her trust and faith in the Lord. Calmly and
continually, while she waited out the months, she built a lasting
fortress of prayer with her spoken words which surrounded and protected
the precious life within her.
These two sounds profoundly influenced Joyce Miller’s heart and mind
from before her birth in February 1932, in Saginaw, Michigan, to this
day. Blended together, they continue to be the major hallmarks of her
life as a Christian woman.
It was no surprise to Marion, that
her daughter showed a natural ability and a high potential for anything
involving music. Her diary, written during pregnancy, revealed gratitude
to God for a daughter she would name Joyce, who would sing and have an
exceptional gift for creativity. Joyce’s musical career actually began
at age three with her mother teaching her gospel choruses. And her
writing career began similarly, with Marion reading to her, one book
By age four, Joyce, then an only child, precociously played, sang, and
preached her way through make-believe church services. Once seeing her
parents slip into a back row, she urged, "You folks back there – you on
sinners’ row – you need to come up front so you can ask Jesus into your
hearts and hear the music better!"
As an adult, she has always carried the belief that when we "hear the
music better," we hear God, ourselves, and others better. Joyce’
motivation for five vocal albums – especially For People Who Don’t
Hear the Music Anymore – and her closing song at the end of each
speaking engagement was planted and nurtured in this way.
The love of music, hard work, and creativity made her school years a
forum for performing in school plays, musicals, and in her father’s
church. By the eighth grade at 13, Joyce began seriously studying voice,
and in 1945, she won the state of Michigan’s prestigious award for best
After Joyce’s family moved from Michigan to California, she enrolled at
Pasadena City College, completed high school and two years of junior
college as a music major, and studied privately with a well-known
operatic vocal coach. During her college studies, the music faculty
selected Joyce to represent the college as the main off-campus soloist
for the city of Pasadena. One of the highlights and changepoints of her
life occurred during this time because the well-known song writer, Phil
Kerr, invited her to sing at his famous Monday night musicals held in
the 3,000 seat Pasadena City Auditorium. Joyce performed with all the
reigning greats of the Christian music world learning her craft, paying
her dues, and growing up musically. Her association with those extremely
talented and creative musicians, both on and off the stage developed her
personal attitudes and behavior and added a dimension to musicianship.
After marriage and giving birth to her son Rick, her daughter Laurie,
and another son, David, Joyce remained convinced that music was the
major avenue for her life and her calling to serve the Lord. At first,
she sang at home with her children; then for churches, Sunday school
classes, hospitals, prisons, women’s clubs, civic group luncheons,
graduations, funerals, and other occasions. She recorded choir albums
with Paul Michaelson and Audrey Mieir. Gradually, by word of mouth, her
singing engagements increased.
One night, things changed.
Dale Evans Rogers asked Joyce to sing for her Hollywood Christian
Group’s meeting. But just as she was about to be introduced, Dale
slipped up behind her and whispered, "Joyce, before you sing, tell us
your testimony." Protesting, Joyce explained she’d never said more than
"a few words" and certainly was not prepared to give a public account of
her spiritual life or talk about her personal commitment to God. But
Dale won out and that night launched Joyce into a second career and
ministry. From then on, Joyce has been asked to be the main speaker, and
to sing "a few songs."
Feeling the need to sharpen her speaking abilities and with her mother’s
abundant encouragement and sacrificial financial help, Joyce enrolled in
theater and drama classes – along with other budding wannabe actors – at
the prestigious Pasadena Playhouse. This invaluable training gave her
the stage presence and experience she would use every time she stood up
in public to speak. Also the Playhouse was excellent preparation for
Joyce’s long running KBBI radio program, Here’s Joyce, and later,
for her nationally syndicated interview program, From the Heart.
Her career as a keynote speaker included multi-denominational
collaborations with Dr. James Dobson in seminars for Family Forum.
At the request of the U.S. Chaplain’s department of the Army, she
traveled and performed in the states, Asia, and at European bases for
service personnel and their dependents. She also visited, sang, and
spoke in the open-wound wards of major military hospitals such as Camp
Zama in Japan during the Viet Nam war.
Since her early days at Pasadena Playhouse, Joyce has logged millions of
miles and thousands of hours communicating – and connecting - with her
audiences. In her personal appearances or on audio or video tapes, Joyce
comes across as she is – real, vulnerable, humorous, yet with a unique
message of compassion, humility, and understanding.
Perhaps nowhere is her speaking so strong and powerful – yet tender and
moving – as in her video series, His Stubborn Love. All six
programs, recorded and filmed in one day before a live audience, have
been shown to 10 million viewers and remains classic in its ability to
allow audiences to relate, laugh, weep, and then reach into the very
center of their hearts to soothe the raw and aching parts of their
Life After Death
The sixties dawned with intensity. Joyce’s life
changed again. Her thirty-something years moved from a jubilant,
exhilarating time of homemaking and child-raising into professional
changes and personal tragedy, the depths of which she’d never
Her life was full. While daily broadcasting a lively and popular radio
show, she was surprised at being asked to write a page for women in
King’s Business magazine out of Biola University. She gave birth to
her third baby, David, who died twelve hours later. In less than a year,
her beloved grandfather followed David. And within nine months, Joyce’s
best friend, mentor, and mother – the remarkable Marion Miller, not yet
sixty years old - died of breast cancer.
During this time, a senior editor of a major
Christian publishing company approached her with a request for
full-length manuscripts. Initially, Joyce scoffed at the idea, walking
him through a long list of reasons she could not accept his offer,
including "I can’t spell..."
The editor assured her that his publishing company had 150 people on the
premises who could spell – but he felt that there were very few
writers who had her insights, her outlook on life, and her ability to
massage words off a printed page easing them into a reader’s heart and
mind. Joyce signed her first book contract with this editor, and, in the
years to follow, her writing was added to her thriving singing and
Her subject matter, like a composite picture of her life, is funny,
witty, thought-provoking, inspirational, sometimes slightly irreverent,
candidly personal, reality-based, and drawn from the joy as well as the
pain of her life. So real are her words that it is not unusual for
readers to stop, look around, as if she’s right there with them, and
wonder how Joyce knew so much about them – or why they feel the relief
and pleasure at knowing they are not alone.
Someone else knows.
During the 1970’s, Joyce developed an intensely
severe problem with physical pain, finally diagnosed as TMJ. Years later
in Silent September, she wrote with such compassion about her ten
years of struggling with the pain-packed jaw disorder that her words
brought comfort and insight to thousands of people who were dealing with
the trauma of chronic pain.
The decade of the 80’s brought one of
the darkest periods of Joyce’s life. It was the unthinkable,
unbelievable demise of her 32-year marriage and the devastating divorce
which followed. Immediately, her public life of singing, speaking, and
writing was severely threatened and almost destroyed. Concerted efforts
by leaders in the evangelical community - shocked, angry, and
disappointed in her – attempted to dislodge and blacklist her from the
world of Christian speaking engagements, publishing and radio. Two years
later, Joyce chronicled some of those experiences in her book,
Unworld People, and once again, by openly writing about her pain,
she hit on a nerve with her readers - becoming a friend, confidant, and
healer to people across the country who were suffering from any kind of
Then There Was Light...
Joyce discovered that an old friend was her true soul
mate, and she married Francis Heatherley – whom she calls her
"cherisher." These two can only be described as a loving, working team.
A duet in progress.
As Joyce slowly and prayerfully began the hard journey into recovery,
once again she took up her God-given calling and mission. It’s no
surprise that, out of the traumatic life experiences she had survived,
Joyce was able to move back into the hearts of her readers and audiences
by authoring The Inheritance, My Blue Blanket, and her most
recent book, Special Words.
Still, she notes, life hands all of us changepoints and challenges.
In 1993, Joyce underwent a mastectomy followed by chemotherapy for
breast cancer. Yet nothing seems to deter this vivacious, talented,
and highly courageous woman. She continues to use her gifts so that
others, as she said to her parents when she was a little girl, "can
hear the music better." In her body of work, she holds back little.
As a writer, speaker, and singer, she continues to give us music for
the soul, reasons for hope and encouragement to persevere while life
keeps happening all around us.
Joyce has received numerous honors and awards for her work,
including an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Azusa Pacific
University, several ANGEL awards, the President's Award from the
Christian Film Distributor's Association, and the Evangelical
Christian Publisher Association's Gold Medallion Award. But
what's more important to her readers and audiences is that....
Joyce truly is their friend.
Click here for an update on Joyce.