Jaci Velasquez knows a little something about trust.
The famous Christian and Latin pop artist's March album "Trust (Confío)," her first worship album and first record in five years, was born from being a mama to two young sons and holding fast to faith in God.
When her oldest son, 9-year-old Zealand, was diagnosed as autistic at the end of second grade, she was brought to her knees. After the news sank in, she said, she mourned for the dreams she had for him.
"It's ironic and interesting how God does stuff," said Velasquez from home in Franklin, Tenn. "My husband and I have been in music and have been communicators - in the music and ministry, you have to communicate - and it's ironic that my son cannot communicate. That's hard, so I was frustrated for awhile."
But in struggle can come great creative awakening. Processing her son's diagnosis inspired the song "Trust You," co-written by Velasquez and several other songwriters, and the new album slowly came together.
"In life we will face storms," she said. "Our storms are real, and it feels like in the midst of it, you're all alone. It's hard to trust that God has a plan, that he still cares and is there, but he is. I look at my little boy, and in his eyes you can see the deep wisdom and soul within him that you and I don't have. I feel like his autism is a gift, and it's all about harvesting that gift. The coolest thing too is the fact that God gives special children to special people. It's a gift that God would trust me enough to give me someone so special."
Velasquez will perform Friday at Circle Drive Baptist Church. Her husband, Nic Gonzales, lead singer of the Christian rock band Salvador, and Christian musician Holly Starr also will appear.
The pop star has never known anything other than the music business. She grew up in an evangelical church where her parents were singers, evangelists and pastors, and at 9 she began traveling the country with them, going from church to church. She sang backup, then went solo, and said it became clear the path God wanted her to travel.
"I was always going," Velasquez said. "I never stopped to think I was cool at all. I always still had my mom who took care of me. She'd remind me it wasn't me, it was God. That there are lots of great singers in the world, you just happened to be somebody that God chose, that's it."
Her debut major label album "Heavenly Place" was released in 1996 and went platinum with five No. 1 singles. Her current resume is even more impressive. She's sold more than 4 million albums, won seven Dove Awards and had 16 No. 1 hits, including fan favorites "On My Knees," "God So Loved" and "You're My God." She's been called the fastest-selling solo debut recording artist in her genre.
While her son doesn't communicate well with the spoken word, he is a music lover through and through and sings nonstop, his mother said. It's a testament to Velasquez about the power of music, that God created this gift as a way for people to relate to him and to each other, especially when it comes to worship.
"When you read the Bible, God uses music in such a powerful way," she said. "The Psalms are songs when you read them. It reaches into anybody. You don't even have to understand what it's saying."
Velasquez often sings in Spanish on her records and in concerts, and she notes the reactions of a non-Spanish speaking crowd when she croons in a foreign language.
"Even though they don't know what I'm saying or singing, music transcends language," she said.
Having spent her entire career in pop music, the idea of making a worship record was scary at first. It's a sub-genre of Christian music defined as songs written to be sung in a congregation with others. Once again, though, God spoke to Velasquez in the way he knew she would hear - through her children - and she trusted there was a reason she needed to branch out.
After receiving a batch of songs from her record label, one stood out to her - "God Who Moves the Mountains" - but she put it in the back of her mind and went home to tend to her family. In the middle of the morning, her youngest son, 8-year-old Soren, yelled out for her after bad dreams.
"We can watch the news and bad stuff happens, but how do you explain that to a 7-year-old?" she asked. "I said, 'Let me tell you a secret: Satan is trying to take over the world.' He said, 'He is?' I said, 'Yes, but you don't have to worry, because do you love Jesus?' He said yes. I said, 'Does Jesus live in your heart?' He said yes. I said, 'Then you never have to worry or be scared.'"
She then remembered the song she'd resonated with earlier in the day, and she sang it to her little boy to comfort him back to sleep. She felt peace in the room as she sang, and she knew.
"In that moment, that's when God spoke to me," she said. "I said, 'If this can do this for my little one, what can it do for others?' We all struggle, we're all facing something, but where do we place our trust? Together holding hands as a family and community, we're going to trust that God moves mountains, that he parts mountains, that he can move that mountain we are facing."