Today Tory Vore was the star of my Monday morning email club. But that wasn’t enough for me. You see, Tory Vore is one of my favorite humans. If the move to Atlanta looks like a big puzzle then Tory and her husband James are a necessary piece. Those two are like a corner piece to me. We met over tacos (that’s always necessary to put out there) and the girl legitimately brings Jesus with her wherever she goes. Into every interaction. Into every conversation. Tory is a writer who recently pushed her blog back into existence. I can’t tell you how thankful I am that this girl is speaking out. She is a hard hitter and I want the whole wide world to meet her, love her, know her, and learn from her.
My husband and I live in a tiny 900 square foot house on a wooded side street in Atlanta. The house was built in 1955 and is the definition of old charm. Every person that steps foot in our door can see the entire house with one glance and always says the same thing, “awe, so cozy.” While it may be cozy, the house has not come without it’s fair share of problems. At first glance, it looks nice. Old, but nice. There’s fresh paint on the walls, hardwood floors, updated bathroom and kitchen… But the longer you live in the house, the more you find its quirks. There is a constant cockroach infestation. We have mold in the windowsills, and the paint has almost all but completely come off the bathroom wall…Things like that are manageable, for a time. You can clean mold, you can spray a roach spray, and you can re-paint the walls. It was the sudden arrival of a colony of tiny, furry roommates, whose patriarchs we’ve taken to calling Chip and Dale, that threw us off our game. That’s right. We have chipmunks. In our walls. There are some that inhabit the wall above the couch, and during quiet movie scenes, we can hear them chomping away at the wall, like they are enjoying the movie with us, eating their own version of movie popcorn. There are some that reside under the bathtub that can be heard in the middle of the night during a mid-dream potty break, squeaking and scampering around. We can hear them under the back porch and in the spare bedroom walls. I’ve even heard them dancing in the ceiling.
We’ve been on a house hunt for some time now. When we tell friends to be on the lookout in their respective Atlanta neighborhood, the response is always the same – “Oh, but your house is so cute!” And it is, from the outside. If only they knew what the structure looked like. All the cute is an illusion. It’s all cosmetic, faked. It’s all on the outside. The structure, it’s barely hanging on. You can see evidence of this when you look close enough at the ceiling, and find bubbles where the roof has leaked. It’s only when you put a ball on the ground and realize that the whole house is slanted; the foundation is sagging. It’s only when you step in the tub, and hear the ground underneath creak, that you realize that years of chipmunk camping has made the very ground under your feet unstable. If you look closely at the house, you see the cracks through the charm.
What if people looked at us? Would they see the cracks? If our people really knew us, would they realize that our foundation was unsteady?
In a world with filters and Snapchat, of profile pictures and 140 characters, have we lost the awareness of the cosmetic in our lives? Have we covered ourselves up so much that we can’t even see the cracks?
In January of 2015, I was healed of anxiety that I had been very secretly struggling with for over a year. The kind of anxiety that made me lose my ability to breath and had put me in the hospital. It was crippling. It was silent. It was a fight I was determined to fight alone. And it was a miraculous act of God that gave me my breath again. And I Instagrammed about it. It was hidden in a post about my fiancé, but I told all 1,000 followers about my secret battle without a second thought. I was at a conference and later that night I was in a hotel with some of my closest friends. One such friend read the post, showed it to me, and said, with tears in her eyes, “I had no idea….” This girl was the matron of honor in my wedding. She has loved me longer and harder than anyone. And she didn’t know.
I had put new coats of paint on myself, I had covered up the things that I didn’t want people to see. I was living the life that everyone else saw on Instagram. I was keeping people at an arm’s length, making sure that no one got close enough to see the cracks in my walls. I was telling a 140 character story. I was letting people in, but manipulating the image so that it fit this twisted lie that I was believing – “No one actually cares about what you’re going through.”
I had graduated college, got turned down from 2 jobs before I found one that suited me and paid the bills, got engaged, and moved from the comfort of my college apartment to the city, and everything was happening a lot faster than I could keep up with. My life was defined by change and uncertainty. But all I saw was the cosmetic stuff in everyone else’s life. I was accepting the instagram lie, that everyone else around me had it all together, and I didn’t.
When my friend turned the phone around and showed me myself, I was devastated at what I saw. I saw peeling paint, and an unsteady foundation, covered up with posts about my happy existence and perfect heart. I saw through my own cracks and was hit like a bulldozer with one thought, “No one actually knows me.” And the broken structure that had been holding me up under cosmetic fixes finally collapsed onto its self. The unsteady foundation gave in and the holes in the walls couldn’t be covered up anymore. I had been figured out. And it was the best thing that ever happened to me
Fast-forward 10 months later – I have found authentic community that allows me to be real. That sees the chips in my paint, and is helping me to rebuild the structure of my life through two things: awareness and vulnerability.
You see, I had critters living in my walls too – but they weren’t named Chip and Dale. They were named Insecurity, Comparison, Doubt, Fear and Unworthiness. I had let them in and I listened to the whispers that they told me in the dead of night, through cracks in the foundations in the homes and tent cities I had freely given them in my once sturdy walls. It wasn’t until their whispers turned to shouts that I found them. I wasn’t aware. I was so distracted by doing and being and becoming this person that I thought people wanted me to be, that the gnawing I felt in my foundations didn’t bother me. I had let these beasts make their home in my heart, and I had unwittingly opened the door and didn’t make them wipe their feet. I was distracted by everyone else’s life, and it was only when I became aware of the critters’ presence was I able to expel the lies that had put down roots in my heart.
You know that feeling in your gut, the one that falls and pulls you down with it? The one that takes control of you and casts a spell over your heart and thoughts and convinces you that you’re not (fill in the blank)? Don’t know what I’m talking about? Then start there. Find the critters, let them know that you don’t want them, and get them out. Insecurity, Comparison, Doubt, Fear and Unworthiness will stay as long as you let them. Awareness and Truth are the exterminators, and the only way to get rid of them. I encourage you to be aware – to find the root of the lies that whisper to you in the night and tell them who is boss. Call them by their name and purge them from your life. Kick them out. Pay attention. Be alert. Don’t let them in the holes in your foundation. Fill those holes with Truth. With love and honesty, with peace and hope. With confidence and community. The critters hate that stuff like that. Look up from looking down and see that your paint is chipping, and your foundation is sagging. Look up from the comparison suck and name yourself “Aware.” Find the places the lies are creeping in and talk to someone about them. Talk to your community, the people that see past the old world charm of you.
Find community- authentic community. I found mine. I found my people. The ones you call when you find yourself with no plans on a Saturday night. The ones that aren’t afraid to look you in the eye and tell you that your paint is chipping. The kind of people that cheer you on and push you to love you. Finding my people didn’t happen overnight. It happened over coffee dates and small talk about jobs and new shoes and celebrity gossip. Coffee turned to wine nights and couches and blankets and over-priced cheese.
And it took vulnerability. It took one person taking the risk to be honest. It took one person laying her heart on the table – pulling all the critters out from her walls – and being raw, real and vulnerable, no matter the risk. It took being the first person to call, the one to make plans. It took effort and discomfort. But one person’s honesty opened the door for everyone else’s honesty. It was scary and raw and uncertain. But it ended up being the best decision I made. To lay it all on the coffee table, cozied up in blankets. It took transitioning from recipes to realness. To saying, “This is hard for me, but I trust you.” It meant wiping off the makeup, tearing down the curtain and letting people see the chipped paint and crooked foundation. And it was worth it.
It’s worth it to let people see you. It’s worth it to switch from many, wide relationships to a few, deep ones. It’s worth it to find your people, even if it’s only 3. It’s worth it to let people in. It’s worth the time and effort it takes to turn off the camera, shut down the app, and let people see the real you for more than a few seconds. Because rebuilding a structure cannot be done alone. It takes many hands to build a home, and it takes many hands held together, in prayer, in tears, in celebration, to rebuild and patch the holes that have led to our pains.
Fill the gaps in your heart with community and vulnerability, and exterminate the critters that have made their home in your heart.