Singer Jaci Velasquez Talks About Her New Book 'When God Rescripts Your Life'
NEW YORK — Since the age of nine, Jaci Velasquez called the backseat of an ‘85 steel-blue Honda her home. Her parents were Christian musicians who traveled to perform in churches all across the country, and that’s how she, herself, began her musical career.
Fast forward three decades, Velasquez is turning 40 this month and is an award-winning, multi-platinum selling record artist who has also acted in a handful of films (“I’m Not Ashamed,” “A Question of Faith”). She’s also accomplished one of her most personal lifelong dreams — having a stable home and family. Sort of.
Velasquez has a real house she can now call home — a ranch in Franklin, Tennessee, where she lives with her husband and fellow musician, Nic Gonzales, and their two boys, Zealand (11) and Soren (10). She enjoys being a hands-on mom, preparing meals and also caring for their 27 chickens. There is always a basket of fresh eggs on their kitchen counter.
Through the years, one of the most important lessons Velasquez has learned is that when things finally seem to go right, sometimes life throws us unexpected surprises. Her first marriage in 2003 ended less than two years later in divorce. Velasquez was just 25. Recently, her eldest son, Zealand, was diagnosed with autism. In her book, “When God Rescripts Your Life,” released Oct. 8, Velasquez delves into how her faith carries her through those difficult, unplanned, moments.
Here’s our Q & A with the singer-songwriter:
RU: According to your book, you grew up in the Christian faith. Do you remember the first time God felt real to you personally?
JV: I’ve had seasons. I accepted the Lord when I was five, but you cannot truly understand that at that age. I think He became real to me all over again when I was about 18, when my parents were going through a divorce. It had to be not my parents’ faith, but my own... Another season, was with the birth of my first-born. I got this incredible picture of what love looks like. It was the first boy I didn’t have to wear the right thing, or say the right thing, for him to love me. It showed me how much God loves us. I could not imagine how God could love him more than I do, and He does. I think sometimes it’s through heartache or health issues. It’s constantly evolving... When my parents were splitting up, I realized you couldn’t count on everything, but I knew I could count on God... I knew that I could count on one thing, and one thing alone, and that is Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, and that He is here comforting us with peace even when everything else is broken and so uncertain.
RU: What led you to write this book now?
JV: Well, the first thing I want to clarify is: it is not a memoir... I would say the reason I wrote the book now is because I had something to say. I’ve experienced so much. I’m about to turn 40 this month, but I feel like I should be 60... I wanted people to understand that in life our plans are going to be interrupted. Our stories are going to go way off track. Sometimes it will not be how we pictured it... I would never have believed that someone would tell me that my son might not ever communicate appropriately. He scripts movies. He’ll watch a movie, and we’ll ask him questions about how his day went, and he’ll remember a line from a movie he only saw once, and use that to answer the question. [However,] I could feel that Zealand had a ministry. God keeps his promises. I don’t know what his ministry will look like, but I know he is going to have one. So we continue walking by faith, not sight. I can feel it. I have that faith.
When my son was diagnosed with being autistic, I felt so angry at God. I would tell him, “What are you thinking? This is not what you said.” I thought how could God love me? What was funny to me is that God never said a word. He didn’t say any answers either. He just let me be upset. After that mourning period was done, I could feel God just say it’s time to get back up. Now you have to start fighting. I said, “Ok. I have to do something that I never did before.” In those times of anger, you don’t understand what autism is. It’s like what autism is for one person, is not for another — there are no two cases that are exactly alike. I felt like I wasn’t equipped. Now I’m a special needs mother. Because of the way I felt, I knew others felt that way too, like an island. Then you meet someone who has an autistic child. And you feel, “You too? I thought I was the only one.”
RU: What incident in your life has been the most life-altering period of growth for you? How has it changed you?
JV: I think the Zealand diagnosis, because we are still on that journey. He is now in the 6th grade. There is no book on his case, because there has never been a Zealand. It’s always an evolving situation. When Jesus said, “Come follow me,” he never said it was going to be easy. He said, “Come suffer with me,” because this life doesn’t continue. We have this pocket of time to work towards eternity...
I spent so much time asking the question, “Why me?” but I started asking the right question, “But why not me?”... That was part of my life, but God can turn all ashes into beauty. He can take our poor choices, and He can redeem those poor choices. God redeems them, but it’s not always in our timing. Sometimes it takes a long time... Sometimes we have to wait to hear what the next step is, but that doesn’t mean we should be lazy. Work as much as you can, but also rest to hear what direction to go. Sometimes obedience is not easy, but it is necessary. I now ask God, “Help me to know the difference between what I want and what you want for me.”
There are so many stories of people in the Bible where the script flipped on them. Esther is my favorite one. She was walking in obedience, and listening to wise counsel, and she saved her people. That’s a script you couldn’t tell her she would play. God redeems. We must continue to walk by faith, because He is always faithful. It is us who break that faith.
RU: One of the most thought-provoking parts of the book was when you mention setbacks, such as you recently developing chronic pain, as a way God asks us to step into Him more. Can you explain how you step into Him more? How has that helped you?
JV: I pray. I stay current. Sometimes, I feel the Lord is telling me, “Call this person. They need to hear from you. They need to know they are not alone. I need to speak through you, Jaci.” Sometimes He’ll just put people in your path. Afterwards, they might tell me something. It’s an opportunity to minister in their life. I have pain, too... [but I’ve learned to] ask the right questions. Instead of focusing on, “Why me?” Tell God you’re open and wide available... Ask yourself, “How can I help others? How can I show more compassion?” In return, you’re leaning in, asking God, because you can’t do it yourself, you’re in pain. My pain traumatized me so much that I forget to breathe. You hold your breath all the time. Breathe in the love that is surrounding you to appreciate it more.
RU: What do you think God’s greater purpose is for you?
JV: To walk with others. To live how 1 Peter calls us to. To use my gift to help others. Being an introvert is my natural state. So, walking out life with others stretches me. It’s not in my comfort zone. Even writing this book has required me to step out.
RU: I heard you are one of the artists performing on the Fred Rogers tribute album, “Thank You, Mr. Rogers,” releasing October 25. What are your other plans for the future?
JV: I’m recording a new Christian pop album in 2020, in Spanish. It will be inspirational. Four days after the book comes out, we are taking our kids on our first Disney cruise.
Kristina Puga is founding editor of WiserWithAge.com, which honors individuals age 60 and over who are actively pursuing their careers and life’s purpose, and have no plans of stopping. Kristina is also a contributor to NBCNews.com and graduated from The Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.