Announcer: 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. Now your hosts, Lynnette Ezell and Tara Melber.
Tara: Welcome back to the Adopting and Fostering Home Podcast. I’m Tara Melber along with Lynette Ezell. You know, Lynnette, 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, yet the Lord joined her there. In Genesis 16, Hagar says, “You are the God who sees me.” We must remind our children and ourselves that though we may not understand why things happen, He created us, He sees us and He knows us.
Lynnette: 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. So, we just had to continue, Crystal, this conversation with you again today because you’re just such a blessing.
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 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: She did actually. 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 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.
My sister never lost hope of us finding my mother. Me, on the other hand, I tried to close that wound. I 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 move past that. At the age of 18 or so, when I turned 18 or so …
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 a couple names above mine.
Lynnette: Oh, that’s amazing.
Crystal: I freaked out.
Lynnette: Did you?
Crystal: I freaked out because I know my mom, like I could literally probably forge my mother’s signature now.
Lynnette: And you still remember that after those years.
Crystal: I still remember. Absolutely. I will never forget her signature and I saw it a couple of names above mine and I freaked out. My foster mom is asking people like, “Is she here?” It was literally a couple names above.
Fast forward when I turned 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.
Tara: Are you glad she did?
Crystal: I am. Absolutely glad that she did. I’m absolutely glad that she did. 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 could get in touch with my mother. She had talked to caseworkers and all that stuff. She asked me if I wanted to make that connection and I said, “Yes.”
I made that connection by myself. I got on MARTA, went to see my mom.
Lynnette: You’re 18-years-old.
Crystal: Eighteen. Eighteen went to see her. I just remember, in my mind, my mother is frozen in my mind at about 35.
Lynnette: I will tell you that never goes away.
Crystal: When I saw her, obviously she looked different. 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 of my favorite foods from back in the day.
Tara: Oh wow! Wow.
Crystal: We talked, and we made that connection.
When my sister made the connection, they had a more in-depth relationship. My mom was sick, so she was my mother’s caretaker for a while. She moved in with my mom to help take care of her.
Tara: So, your sister’s in her 20s now.
Crystal: Yep. Yep, and she had a baby. My niece was probably about two or three at the time. 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.
Basically, I remember I was invited at my church to do a spoken word piece on the stage. I go to a mega-church. I go to World Changer’s Church International. A big church, my mom does not do big churches. That’s not her thing. So, when I told them, my sister and my mom, that I was going to do a poem, they came.
Lynnette: Oh, they were in the stands.
Crystal: They came. They were in the stands.
Lynnette: Your mom was in the stands, yeah.
Crystal: She came and they saw me do the poem and I remember my mom, she bought the DVD of me doing the poem. My sister told this. She would watch it all the time.
My mom still had a lot of hood friends. My mom did some hood things just in general. 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. She be like, “All right, everybody gather round, come watch my baby.”
Lynnette: That is awesome.
Crystal: “Come watch my baby.” She would play it on the TV, and then she would leave it playing. So, mind you, I’m doing this at church. I did the poem and then the pastor comes out and start preaching.
Lynnette: Worship’s coming, yeah.
Tara: The Lord uses all things.
Crystal: It’s playing in the background of them having fun, playing cards. 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 to her. She passed away before I was able to give it to her.
Lynnette: But she got to see the beautiful young lady that you are.
Crystal: Yeah. Yeah, so 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.
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.
Lynnette: And, that she loved you and you got closure.
Crystal: Yeah, every accomplishment, every victory, it’s for this team called my lineage. It’s for this team. 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 a major impact, even if in her small time on this Earth she didn’t get to physically do it, look at how God is using her children. Look at how God is bringing this thing full circle. The enemy lost.
Crystal: He didn’t succeed in taking out her bloodline.
Tara: The Lord weaves together a great tapestry and the people that you are affecting would never have been affected if the way that Lord providentially brought you into different circumstances had not happened.
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. 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. Because you’ve had this history and this is your story, you have such an awesome perspective and you’re 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: 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.
I think as a foster parent, we have a responsibility to identify those things and 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.
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. 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. Only in Christ can we come to terms with all of that because it doesn’t make sense outside of it.
Tara: Oh, right.
Lynnette: It doesn’t.
Crystal: 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. You have to do that in a way that it preserves that child’s identity.
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.
Lynnette: And, it takes time.
Crystal: It takes time and it takes trust-
Lynnette: Because they don’t know your rules.
Lynnette: To bring a child in your home and then start laying down all the rules and are laws and making the box so small, the child feels like, “I don’t fit.”
Crystal: And, they don’t trust you enough yet to let you in that far. They don’t trust you enough.
That trust has to be paramount and also as parents, 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. 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 outburst, they’re communicating what they need.
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?” 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. We have to become consistent and persistent in finding out and getting the solution that this child needs that’s specific to that child.
Every foster parent is going to have their own struggles. 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. 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. Sometimes it’s difficult, especially when our emotions get involved.
Tara: 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?
Lynnette: It takes a long time-
Tara: It does.
Lynnette: To get to the bottom of that.
Tara: And, a lot of sitting silently.
Lynnette: Yes, I do a lot of that.
Tara: Because eventually, or driving in the car when they’re not having to look at you … We have a friend that calls it throwing out a pebble. You just throw out a little bit and see what kind of ripple effect you get. 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. It doesn’t happen every time you have the conversation, so you just have to keep pursuing. Keep pursuing.
Lynnette: 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. I have six. I don’t parent any two the same, right?
Lynnette: Well, you have compiled all of this in a very creative format and you’re an author.
Tara: You’ve written a book called “Stronger: An Inspirational Journal,” which is a compilation of your poetry. Is that correct?
Crystal: Yes. It’s short poems that give snapshots and nuggets for people to really think about and connect to just their own hurt and trauma and also their own victory. 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.
Tara: 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.
Tara: Would you like to do that? That’d be great.
Crystal: Yes, yes.
Lynnette: Give us a little background on it first and then you can share it with us.
Crystal: Definitely. 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 all have. 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.
Also, understanding that our gifts, when we use them for good, we leave marks in the lives of people. Our gifts and our talents are to be sown and they have more longevity than we have as humans. 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. 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.
Lynnette: Oh, that’s beautiful.
Tara: It is.
Lynnette: Well, I can’t wait any longer.
Tara: We’re all ears.
Lynnette: You got to share with us.
Crystal: 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 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 can do with five small stones alone in the hands of a small shepherd teen. Or, ask a 1,000 Philistines what God can do with a small jaw bone in the hands of one man alone. Or, maybe you should ask Gideon what God can 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 can do in the midst of a need He is all we need. God knows how to make it do what it do. His track records 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 of Himself. The sky was not His limit so He did it big, like galactic. Attracting all judgment to Himself like a magnet.
Now, we some kin 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 are moving on up to the peace-side like George and Weezy. Easy. He’s given me hope. Fixing problems better than Olivia Pope. He’s my gladiator, mediator, Rock of Ages, unlock the cages and set me free.
Take the past. I’ll 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 can 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. 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.
Lynnette: Wow, that was beautiful. Well, Crystal, thank you for joining us today.
Announcer: 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.