Today, we are revisiting a conversation with former foster youth, Crystal Williams.
Listen in for part 2 of Crystal William’s extraordinary message, and let your family be reminded that though we don’t understand why things happen, God created us, sees us and knows us. Crystal, who grew up in the foster care system, shares more years in the foster care system. In this second conversation with Crystal, she discusses getting to know her birth mom after eight years of wondering if her mother was dead or alive.
To listen to part 1, click here.
Speaker 1: Welcome to the Adopting and Fostering Home Podcast. Whether your family has been on this journey for years, or you’re just getting started, we’re here to support and encourage you along the way. And now your hosts, Lynette Ezell and Tera Melber.
Tera Melber: Welcome back to the Adopting and Fostering Home Podcast. I’m Tera Melber, along with Lynette Ezell. You know, Lynette, often we share passages of Scripture with our children to remind them that God sees them and knows them. I think of Hagar in the desert with Ishmael. She was distraught and felt so alone.
Tera Melber: Yet the Lord joined her there. In Genesis 16, Hagar says, “You are the God who sees me,” and we must remind our children and ourselves that, though we don’t understand why things happen, he created us, he sees us, and he knows us.
Lynette Ezell: Oh, absolutely. He is El Roi, from beginning to end, and all in the middle. Well, Crystal Williams, we’re so blessed to have you with us again today. Crystal is an inspirational speaker, she’s an advocate for foster care, she’s a spoken word artist, very articulate, just one of the most talented people I think I’ve ever met, and so we just had to continue, Crystal, this conversation with you again today. Because you’re just such a blessing.
Lynette Ezell: And yesterday, we were talking about your story, and I just, if you don’t mind, would you mind sharing about your birth mom? Because I’m seeing what a talented, gifted person you are, and your sister is, and what an incredible mom she is, and the children she’s raising, and the healing that’s been brought to your family. Did your mom get to see any of that?
Crystal Williams: She did, actually. So, my mom, as I mentioned, we came into foster care when I was 10, and my sister was 13, and so for a period of about eight years or so, we didn’t even really know where my mother was. We didn’t know if she was okay, we didn’t know if she, honestly, was dead or alive. We just did not know during that period of time.
And my sister never lost hope of us finding my mother. Me, on the other hand, I kind of tried to close that wound, and I kind of grieved while I was still in foster care, just because I didn’t know, and that was the only way that I felt like I could function, is if I kind of moved past that.
So at the age of 18 or so, when I turned 18 or so, well, let me backtrack a little bit. At 16, my foster mom took me to Grady Hospital to get some glasses, and I’m walking up to sign the sheet, and I saw my mother’s signature couple names above mine.
Lynette Ezell: Oh, that’s amazing.
Crystal: And I freaked out.
Lynette Ezell: Did you?
Crystal Williams: I freaked out, because I know my … I could literally probably forge my mother’s signature now.
Lynette Ezell: And you still remembered that, after all those years.
Crystal Williams: I still remember her. Absolutely. I will never forget her signature. And I saw it a couple names above mine, and I freaked out. And my foster mom is asking people, like, “Is she here?” Because it was literally a couple names above.
And so, fast forward, 18, when I turn 18, my foster mom revealed to me that she knew how to get in contact with my mother. She had, during this time, made some calls, made some contacts after that day at Grady, to see what she could find out.
Lynette Ezell: Are you glad she did?
Crystal Williams: I am absolutely glad that she did. I’m absolutely glad that she did. And I don’t know the details of that. I actually probably need to talk to her about it, because it’s really interesting, but she told me at 18 that she knew how I can get in touch with my mother.
She had talked to case workers and all that stuff. And she asked me if I wanted to make that connection, and I said yes. And so I made that connection by myself. I got on MARTA, went to see my mom, and-
Lynette Ezell: You’re 18 years old.
Crystal Williams: 18. 18, went to see her. And I just remember, in my mind, my mother is frozen in my mind at about 35.
Lynette Ezell: And I will, too. That never goes away.
Crystal Williams: Right. So when I saw her, obviously she looked different, and I just remember having very surface conversation with her. There was no, “Where have you been for the last eight years?” None of that. Just very surface conversation. She brought my favorite food from when I was that age, so we had pizza, sour cream and onion potato chips, Snickers, Sprite, all my favorite foods from back in the day.
Lynette Ezell: Oh, wow, wow.
Crystal Williams: And we talked, and we made that connection. When my sister made the connection, they had a more in depth relationship. She actually was, my mom was sick, so she was my mother’s caretaker for a while. And she moved in with my mom to help take care of her.
Lynette Ezell: So your sister’s in her 20’s now.
Crystal Williams: Yep, yep, and she had a baby. My niece was probably about two or three at the time, and so very different relationship. My sister was there in the nitty, gritty, dirty, cleaning up, doing what she had to do to take care of my mom. When I got ready to come over, “Oh my God, Crystal’s coming over. Let’s clean up. Let’s make sure everything is in place, because Crystal’s coming over.”
Very different. And so, basically, I remember, I was invited at my church to do a spoken word piece on the stage. And I go to a megachurch. I go to World Changers Church International. And a big church, my mom does not do big churches. That’s not her thing. So, so when I told them, my sister and my mom, that I was going to do a poem, they came.
Lynette Ezell: Oh, they were in the stands. Your mom was in the stands.
Crystal Williams: They came. They were in the stands. They were in the stands. And she came, and they saw me do the poem, and I remember my mom, she bought the DVD of me doing the poem. And so she would watch it. My sister told me this. She would watch it all the time, and so my mom still had a lot of hood friends, and my mom did some hood things, just in general.
And so basically, she would invite her friends over when they all got paid, and they would be drinking, and just kicking it, playing cards, all that stuff. And she’d be like, “All right, everybody, gather round, come watch my baby.”
Tera Melber: That is awesome.
Crystal Williams: “Come watch my baby.” And she would play it on the TV, and then she would leave it playing. So mind you, I’m doing this at church. So I did the poem, and then the pastor comes out, starts preaching.
Lynette Ezell: Worship’s coming.
Crystal Williams: And so it’s playing in the background of them having fun, playing cards. And I remember, she lost that DVD, and I purchased her another one, and I didn’t get a chance to give it to her. I didn’t get a chance to give it. She passed away before I was able to give it to her.
Lynette Ezell: But she got to see the beautiful young lady that you are.
Crystal Williams: Yeah, so, yeah. I think that’s an honor, and I thank God that I got that opportunity to have that moment with her, and for her to see that, and even though there are questions that I will never … I never asked her questions, I do feel the peace in knowing that my sister knows a piece of the story. I have relatives who know pieces of the story, and so, gathering those pieces and really seeing also that I carry a piece of her with me, you know? And every-
Lynette Ezell: And that she loved you, and you got closure.
Crystal Williams: Yeah.
Lynette Ezell: Yeah.
Crystal Williams: Yeah. Every accomplishment, every victory, is for this team called my lineage. It’s for this team, and so I’m honored to be able to make points for the team, and that God has blessed me to do that, and for her to know that she made major impact, even if, in her small time on this earth, she didn’t physically get to do it. Look at how God is using her children, and look at how God is bringing this thing full circle. The enemy lost. He didn’t succeed in taking out her bloodline, so…
Tera Melber: The Lord weaves together a great tapestry, and the people that you are affecting would never have been affected if the way that the Lord providentially brought you into different circumstances had not happened. And so, I think, big picture, when we look at that, it can bring great comfort to know the Lord does know me, did see me, did create me in my mother’s womb, knew what was coming, and yet he will use it all to bring glory to his name, and for the salvation of many.
It’s an incredible story, incredible. Well, now, you work for an organization, and you do adoptive and foster care training for parents. And so, because you’ve had this history, and this is your story, you have such an awesome perspective, and you’re kind of on this side of it, and you’re making a difference. What kinds of things is it that you want foster parents and adoptive parents to know? Because you’ve been there, done that. You’ve been that kid. What would you tell Lynette and me, as far as things that we can implement into our own lives with our children?
Crystal Williams: I think definitely paying attention to detail in individual children. Picking up on those things. A lot of times, young people who come into foster care don’t have all the words to describe. At this point, I can articulate all this stuff, because I’m older. But a young person, all these feelings are still there. All these emotions are still there. But they can’t necessarily tell you exactly what all that means and how it all plays together.
And so I think, as a foster parent, we have a responsibility to identify those things, and to, in that, even if it’s a short period of time, to allow God to give us the seeds to plant into the lives of young people. And so, I know when you have young people who come in, a lot of the attack is on their identity. It is on who I am, and who I’m not, based on what has happened to me.
And so, as foster parents and adoptive parents, we have to be absolutely, 100% committed to helping young people solidify their identity, and that includes the broken pieces. That includes their past, that includes the dark space, that includes all of that. And only in Christ can we come to terms with all of that, because it doesn’t make sense outside of it.
Lynette Ezell: It doesn’t.
Crystal Williams: And so, we have to, as parents in general, we are cultivators. We are sowers. But as foster parents and adoptive parents, not only are you sowers, but you got to uproot some stuff. And you have to do that in a way that it preserves that child’s identity. And so you don’t want to say, okay, let’s say a young person comes into your home, and they’re six, but they’re using all type of words. Just profanity.
“Don’t do that. No, that’s wrong.” Think about what that does to their identity. Is it wrong? Yeah, they shouldn’t be saying this. But there’s a way that we can do that where you’re not snatching away. You have to gently remove and tear down and rebuild.
Lynette Ezell: And it takes time.
Crystal Williams: It takes time, and it takes trust.
Lynette Ezell: Because they don’t know your rules. They don’t … To bring a child in your home, and then start laying down all the rules, and the laws, and making the box so small, the child feels like, “I don’t fit.”
Crystal Williams: Yeah. And they don’t trust you enough yet to let you in that far. They don’t trust you enough. And so, that trust has to be paramount. And also, as parents, or foster parents, adoptive parents, we have to be teachable. It’s such a burden to have to know every answer. And a lot of times, parents are in that position. You have to know every answer.
And so, how can we sit back and be the student, and see this young person, and learn from them what they need? Because they’re communicating it, not in words, but in their actions, in their outbursts, they’re communicating what they need, and so we can’t take what worked for our children and apply it to the child in our home. We have to sit back and become a student and say, “Okay, what is the need?”
And also recognizing that this outcry, whatever the behavior is, I can’t acknowledge that behavior as just behavior. There’s so much behind it that this child’s trying to communicate, and so we have to become consistent, and persistent, in finding out and getting the solution that this child needs, that’s specific to that child.
And so, every foster parent is going to have their own struggles. They’re going to have … No foster care placement is the same. So you’re constantly learning, you’re constantly falling and getting back up, and there’s hurt involved in all of that. But we have to see the child beyond their behavior. We have to see the child beyond their hurt so that we can truly respond to that. And sometimes, it’s difficult, especially when our emotions get involved.
Tera Melber: Right. Because we’re taking things personally. You can’t take those behaviors personally in your home, because it is coming from a root issue that you have to figure out. “I know you’re behaving like this, but what’s really underneath?”
Lynette Ezell: And it takes a long time to get to the bottom of that.
Tera Melber: And a lot of sitting silently.
Lynette Ezell: Yes, I do a lot of that. Absolutely.
Tera Melber: Because, eventually, or driving in the car when they’re not having to look at you. And we have a friend who calls it throwing out a pebble. You just throw out a little bit and see what kind of ripple effect you get. And sometimes, it may just hit on dry ground, and sometimes it hits the water, and the ripple effect really comes into play, and so many things are uprooted. But it doesn’t happen every time you have the conversation. So you just have to keep pursuing. Keep pursuing.
Lynette Ezell: Well, Crystal, I know you bring so much to the table, and you’re helping us as adoptive parents and as foster parents to know we have to be the adult in the room, we have to be patient, we have to give these kids space, and you don’t … I have six. I don’t parent any two the same, right?
Crystal Williams: Absolutely.
Lynette Ezell: Well, you have compiled all of this in a very creative format, and you’re an author.
Crystal Williams: Yes.
Tera Melber: So you’ve written a book called Stronger: An Inspirational Journal, which is a compilation of your poetry. Is that correct?
Crystal Williams: Yes. It’s short poems that kind of give snapshots and nuggets for people to really think about and connect to just their own hurt and trauma, and also their own victory. And so this book is really my heartbeat through some difficult times, through some victorious times, and just snapshots of small poems that I wanted to share specifically with young people.
Tera Melber: I love it. Well, we really are so thankful that you joined us today, and we really hope that our listeners will go to your website at CrystallWilliams.com. That will be listed in our show notes, and you can also, on her website, purchase her book, or contact her for speaking engagements. But we would be really honored if you would close us out with one of your poems. Would you like to do that? That’d be great.
Crystal Williams: Absolutely.
Lynette Ezell: Give us a little background on it first, and then you can share it with us.
Crystal Williams: Definitely. So, this particular poem, it was written, actually, in segments. And it is basically inspiring people to not take for granted the gifts and talents that we have, and understanding that our gifts and talents are seeds that can be sown to impact a young person’s life, or any person’s life. We are to take our seeds and plant them in the lives of young people, and they will grow up.
And also understanding that our gifts, when we use them for good, we leave marks in the lives of people, and so our gifts and our talents are to be sown, and they have more longevity than we have as humans. And so it’s just inspiring people to not despise the small, and to understand, regardless of what your gift is, you can be a blessing to someone.
Even in foster care, there’s so many areas you can get involved. You don’t necessarily have to be a foster parent, if that’s not what you’re called to do, but if you have a gift for technology, you can make a video for raising awareness, or if you have a gift of public speaking, you can speak out. Whatever your gift is, find a way to sow that gift into a good cause.
Lynette Ezell: Oh, that’s beautiful. Well, I can’t wait any longer. You’ve got to share with us.
Tera Melber: We’re all ears.
Crystal Williams: All right.
Take your seed, plant your seed. Don’t eat your seed. Take your seed, plant your seed. Don’t eat your seed. Take your seed, plant your seed, and watch God do amazing things. My fallacy is callously pretending that I’m all I need. I take my seed, and I eat it, because I’m too scared to seed it, plant it, grant it permission to grow.
I wanted to grow, but I never sow. I’m tired of bending to blend in with whatever’s trending, sending mixed messages like I’m texting with Tourette’s syndrome. It’s been done. I’ve just got to plant it. Not understanding that God has already agreed to be all that I need. It’s like I’m holding the seed, running around looking for trees, not understanding that all trees already exist inside of one small seed.
I said it’s like I’m holding that seed, and then I’m running around and I’m looking for trees, not understanding that all trees already exist inside of one small seed. In my hands, it’s small, but when I place all I have in the hands of a big God, I can start a riot.
Ask Goliath what God could do with five small stones alone in the hands of a small shepherd teen, or ask a thousand Philistines what God could do with the small jawbone in the hands of one man alone, or maybe you should ask Gideon what God could do with an army of 300. God sees hundreds in one small seed. Just ask the little boy with two fish and five loaves what God could do in the midst of a need.
He is all we need. God knows how to make it do what it do. His track record’s proven. Nothing is too small for God. The greatest story ever told, how much God loves man, understand the implications. He took out all complications of law, works, guilt, sin, death, and he selflessly gave up himself. The sky was not his limit, so he did it big like galactic, attracting all judgment to himself like a magnet.
Now we cling to Christ, no longer do what sin say, but He did it all to see us free like Kunta Kinte, no more room for sin, but we moving on up to the peace side like George and Wheezy. Easy, he’s given me hope. Fix them problems better than Olivia Pope, He’s my gladiator, mediator, rock of ages. Unlock the cages and set me free. Take the past off, blast off from this world like rockets.
My God reaches down in His pockets, and He plucks stars from their sockets, and we’re all stars, so we can unlock it. Clock is ticking. I’m sticking to the original plan of trusting God, standing, understanding when I’m handing my small to a big God, He can take it and feed thousands. With two fish and five small loaves, my God goes above all we could ask or think.
So I’m not sinking into myself, thinking what I have is enough, but what I have is enough. I understand that my stuff doesn’t belong to me, but it belongs to God, and when I place my not enough stuff in the hands of a more than enough God, He is able to supply all things through Christ, who possesses all things, so it is an honor to bring what I have to my King, who is able to supply.
So take your seed. Plant your seed. Don’t eat your seed. Take your seed. Plant your seed. Don’t eat your seed. Take your seed. Plant your seed. And watch God do amazing things.
Tera Melber: Wow.
Lynette Ezell: Wow, that was beautiful. Well, Crystal, thank you for joining us today.
Speaker 5: You’ve been listening to the Adopting and Fostering Home Podcast, a ministry of the North American Mission Board, and funded through the cooperative program. This month, and through the end of the year, we would like to ask you to consider giving to the Minister’s Adoption Fund.
This fund provides grants to Southern Baptist ministers and missionaries who are adopting. By giving financially, you are able to be a part of seeing many children become beloved sons and daughters. For more information, visit SendRelief.org.