It’s been so long since I’ve sat down to write. Like, to seriously write. I don’t think I’ve taken this long of a break since, well, ever. But honestly, last year wasn’t like any other year I’d ever experienced before so I suppose it makes sense. Sort of.

Harvey changed all of us last year. Even those of us who didn’t flood.

The reality is, even if your house was left in tact, nothing else in your world was. We had so many friends left homeless. So. Many. Friends. And that left a big opportunity for ministry and caring and reaching out and it took all we¬†had to love them well. And yet we still failed so many times. And we’re still trying.

Our grocery stores flooded, our doctor offices flooded, our restaurants flooded…everything. When people say, “Why are you still talking about the flood?” I want to scream, “Because it’s still a thing!” Everyone is tired. People who flooded are tired of mess and dust and contractors and insurance adjusters and….this list is endless. People who didn’t flood are tired of not being able to fix things for the friends that we love. Everyone in our town needs a vacation to a beautiful cabin in the mountains.This could be why my word of the year for 2018 is Soft. I wrestle with choosing a word because I don’t stick with too many things for too long and one word for one year originally sounded very daunting to me. But for the past few years this process of praying about a word and rolling and wrestling with it for an entire year has shaped me in ways I never expected. It has opened doors to learning I wasn’t expecting.

To me, Soft represents a state of being. It means being quiet more and listening well. It means judging less and accepting others more. It means being grace-filled every day because I’ve sat at the feet of my heavenly father and been filled.

In the early days after I chose this word, a friend sent me a message about Hygge. Have you heard this word? I hadn’t before her message but now that I’ve seen it I realize it’s everywhere. I can’t seem to get away from it; which simply reinforces my choice of Soft for my word this year.

Simply put, Hygge is a Danish word that doesn’t translate easily to English. It’s pronounced HOO-gah, which is not at all how I would have said it had no one told me otherwise. Loosely, it means cozy, homey, soft. It can be a thing or it can be a description or it can be an action…the possibilities are endless.

Think of a cold night in December. The Christmas tree is lit, there’s a fire in the fireplace, and you’ve got a cinnamon candle burning. You are wearing your favorite soft pajamas and you are snuggled under a blanket with your spouse and little ones watching a Christmas movie.

That’s Hygge.

Imagine a sunny morning in March. There’s a breeze blowing and flowers are beginning to pop up and out in their brightest, fresh colors. Oh, they smell so sweet! You are sitting in a rocking chair next to a friend and sharing laughs over a cup of coffee.

That’s Hygge.

The thought of it and the desire for it has almost consumed me as of late. I’ve found myself retreating from places and situations that don’t fit the bill because my desire for Hygge has become so great. When a friend questioned me on it this week I had a brief moment of conviction; a feeling that ran through my head and heart that said, “Is this something I should even be thinking about?” It was that quick flash of guilt that made me question if I was being selfish. Or did it mean I was hiding from commitments? As a Christian, how can I share the love of Jesus and also be soft and comfy? As a church worker, aren’t we supposed to discourage “cozy?” Aren’t we supposed to encourage people to go into all the world?

But then I was reminded of Mary. Not mother of Jesus Mary but Martha’s sister Mary. Mary, the one who sat at the feet of Jesus while her sister, Martha, bustled around the kitchen. Mary, who listened to all Jesus had for her while her sister was cooking and cleaning. Mary, who was calm and allowed herself to be taught and loved.

I used to hear that story and think, “Well, someone had to do it! Those men showed up unannounced and were most likely hungry. Martha did right by making sure they were cared for. That’s exactly what I would do!”

In recent years, however, my thought process has changed. While I, too, used to freak out if guests showed up unannounced or was the one that planned and planned and planned for dinners with friends, I’ve found a better way.

I’ve learned to not worry about a little dust so much. I’ve learned that eating off of paper plates with friends is fine because then we have more time for visiting and less time for cleaning up. I’ve learned that having some soft blankets on hand is a gift for my guests and that delicious smelling candles hides the smell of dog but also adds a cozy feel to the room. The most important thing I’ve learned is that people don’t love you and want to spend time with you because of your house or the things in it. People love you and want to come over because you make them feel welcomed, loved, and well-cared for. And isn’t that exactly what Jesus did? He sat with the people no one else loved. He ate dinner with the outcasts. He fed the hungry.He offered healing to the sick. He listened well, he accepted all, and he offered grace upon grace upon grace.

That’s Hygge.

And that’s why Soft is my word to wrestle this year. It’s not about hiding or being selfish. Being soft is being like Jesus.