Who influences your character toward growth?

I was flipping through the pages of my planner this morning and realized this will be my last weekly newsletter to you for the month of June. Doesn't it feel like there's supposed to be another week left? Also, hasn't it already been June for longer than forever?

And, what a month! We launched our new Academic Planners on June 1st, then immediately muted our own content online for a week in order to join the labor of listening, learning, and amplifying melanated voices. That was an uncomfortable decision to make (at first) both because of the timing in relation to our launch and because it felt like something I'd never done before. Once our team made the decision together and stepped into it together, I realized it wasn't something new. Rather, it was a new expression of long-held postures of seeking to be humble, curious, generous, attentive, and present.

We never want to join a conversation just because it's trending even if we have nothing of value to add, and in so doing contribute to the noise. But we do want to honor the beauty and value of inflection points and faithfully do the work that is ours to do as best we can discern it. Plus, I could see tons of examples of people and companies I didn't want to be like in this cultural moment and only a handful of examples that felt loving, true, consistent, humble, and invitational...and I thought maybe we could be one of those for someone else, too.

The whole experience has made me even more mindful about how I choose the images and voices that come into my life and over time influence who I am and who I am becoming. I don't regularly think about how poignant the term "following" is when describing our relationship to another person, ministry, business, or even church online in social media, but I have this week. And, so I've asked myself if I want to follow—be led by—each of the accounts I'm "following." I see a cull coming up!

It's easy for most of us to have Facebook and Instagram feeds (and inboxes) full of people that look like us and think like us, that share our interests and experiences and mirror back to us who we think we are or hope to become. It is harder and requires much more intentional work to listen to, learn from, get to know people who are different from us in any of many ways. For the sake of today's conversation, I'm talking about race as the point of similarity or dissimilarity.

I've realized that the people, companies, and organizations I choose to follow or learn from fall into five groups. Actually naming these five categories this month has served me especially well. Maybe it will help you, too? 

The first group is what most of us have feeds full of, and that's people who are similar to us and who also have, teach, or offer something we want. Those are the easiest to find and be found by. But, just because we want to learn about ___ or want to see ____ doesn't always mean their character or posture toward their work (or followers or colleagues) is something we'd want to emulate—though we often will without consciously engaging. Do we need to see examples of what we don't want to be like regularly to be reminded? Or, is it messing with our heads to be consuming their methods, pace, and tone of voice because we want the content? Maybe make a list of who falls on this list for you. This is actually the smallest category of people I follow. There's just a handful worth it to me to follow if I want to learn from them in one area, but don't trust their overall character or want to be like them in the bigger picture.

The second group is people similar to us who have, teach, or offer something we want and ALSO have the characters and practices we want. For me in this conversation, the people in this group are white people often who run online businesses or ministries or are in a similar season of life, maybe we even go to the same conferences or run in similar circles. Another through-line for the people on my list are people who are fully, consistently themselves, but they're sensitive to and aware of seasons, other people, and the world. These are people I don't feel like I'm watching perform, but rather share work they feel called to offer WHILE embedded in real, mutual communities and relationships. They're not just megaphoning without accountability, as it can often seem people do. They have humble hearts and share what they're learning as they're learning it (instead of waiting until they have it all figured out), including naming when things are hard or confusing or off. They have healthy boundaries with their comments and DMs. They take breaks. They know that praise can be as toxic for someone's heart and mind as criticism. They engage in larger conversations. but the way they add their voice is unique to them. They consistently lift, encourage, teach, inspire, and model. They're all funny in different ways. They are self-aware and reflective and demonstrate change and growth over time. They have a unique way of seeing and talking about their colleagues and kindreds in each of their chosen fields. A few on my list are Emily P. FreemanJenny KomendaPhilip or FlopHilary RushfordLore Wilbert, and KJ Ramsey. Who is on your list? Why? I'm printing out these bullet points for myself to remind myself of how I'd like to show up on social media and here, in email.

The third group is people who are dissimilar to me, but who have a pastoral heart for teaching and walking alongside people like me. They have different cultures, backgrounds, and lived experiences than mine. For this month's example, the people in this category are primarily Black. We may or may not be in the same circles, and we have different expertise. They are intentional about teaching from these differences, bringing others alongside, and bridging divides. One example from this group is my friend Osheta Moore, whose morning breath prayers M-F at 6:30 am on Instagram Live have been a respite these last few weeks. Osheta reads a devotional, reads scripture with Lectio Divina, and then chooses a breath prayer. It is so beautiful! (By the way, in July she's starting breath prayers using Erin Hicks Moon's $9 devotional The Comfortable Words. I'm planning to join and would like to invite you to join in, too. You can also message Osheta or Erin to gift a copy to someone who can't afford it or to say you'd like one of the gifted copies!) Two other examples are Latasha Morrison of Be The Bridge and Dr. Lucretia Berry of Brownicity. All of these women do such good work and have been for a long time. They pastor through books, podcasts, courses, membership communities, resources, social media posts, and so much more. 

The fourth group of voices I'm cultivating in my ear are people who aren't simliar to me but share similar interests. Like the second group, they have different backgrounds and experiences. And while they're not necessarily experts or teachers in the area of our dissimilarity (in this case, again, race), they love some of the same things I do, like interior design, gardening, entrepreneurship, graphic design, and personal finance. I can learn a lot from them just by observing what they share and I want more of their diversity of experience in my life. In interior design Shavonda Gardner is a long-time favorite follow. In hospitality, home, life with littles, writing, interior design, and starting a shop Alexa Mason is a gem. In business and finance, I love following John Henry & the team at Harlem Capital

The fifth group is people who are dissimilar to me and aren't sharing things I'm particularly interested in learning about or seeing, but they have strong, clear voices that add rich dialogue to the larger conversations. This one is one of the hardest to find and cultivate. Perhaps they talk about representation in their field, or perhaps they have a particularly beautiful way of sharing their lived experiences. I'd like to recommend my list in the 4th group even if you're not interested in the same things I am. And, we're putting together some social media story graphics to share in the next week so you can share who I should add to this fifth group. Or, you can always reply to this email!

A bonus sixth group is people who I feel called to serve. If you have a business, ministry, or some kind of service you offer it's easy to get caught up in following colleagues and even turning them into competitors in your mind. But, from the beginning, the biggest group of people we follow on our @sacredordinarydays accounts are people whom we serve or seek to serve. That has done wonders to keep us focused instead of feeling competitive and allows us to notice and discern what we might create to offer you in service.

How do you approach who you "follow?" What kind of voices currently fill your online spaces? How do those spaces reflect your values and shape your character? How often do you cull who you follow?

Alongside you,

P. S. Our 2021 Liturgical Daily and Weekly (!!!) planners are going into production in the next two weeks and we'd love to get feedback from 10-20 people on our weekly planner before we send it to print. If you've used and loved our weekly planner in the past (or have been really looking forward to it) and would be willing to give us feedback in the next week, we'd love to hear from you. We're looking to hear from a wide variety of voices, including a retired person, a new parent, a parent of teenagers, a student, a minister, a newlywed, someone in a season of transition, a caregiver, a stay-at-home parent, a teacher, a meal-planning fanatic, a gym regular, and a person at their wits' end with their job.