I grew up in a town of about 1200 people. In those days, it was a peanut farming community, and I lived out in the country where I could walk out our front door and dig up raw peanuts from the field in front of our house. The delicious, rich aroma of roasted peanuts greeted each visitor as he drove into town.
My best friend’s dad was a peanut farmer, and she would help him move tractors from one field to another, learning all the ins and outs of planting and nurturing these little green plants so that together they could make the world a better place (because we all know that one of God’s greatest blessings in life is peanut butter).
I grew up under the watchful eye of a church and a town that nurtured me, too. People who knew how to sweetly tend to those little hearts who were coming up right there under their noses.
This weekend I had the opportunity to speak at a small conference near my hometown, and as I stood up to speak, two women smiled back at me who were a part of that community that watched over me, that guided me and encouraged me all those years ago. Here I was, standing at the podium, while they had their pens out, poised to take notes on what I had to say. It was such a strange moment for me, standing there in front of women who probably should have been speaking while I took notes.
They hugged me and encouraged me once again, and still it mattered so much, this affirming of what they see God doing in me–a generous gift of encouragement for a girl who has a hard time seeing these things for herself. And, I was reminded that part of our calling as women is just to speak life into each other, to look for the ways that God is doing good things and to say something when we see it. Without those two women and many others beside them when I was growing up among the peanut fields, I doubt that I would have ever realized many of the gifts of God in my life.
My little hometown doesn’t smell like peanuts anymore. Farmers in West Texas now handle the crop that once turned sandy fields green and vibrant in front of our house. But, still there is growth in homes and churches and on school playgrounds and in baseball dugouts, where ordinary people stop to name all of the ways they see God working in those around them. I’m thankful for the women through the years who have encouraged me, who have recognized God’s hand rearranging my plans and my heart, who cheered me on in my growing up. This weekend I remembered just how much it has mattered.