In rural Lake Stevens, there is a cozy white home tucked amongst the trees. It's an older house with a lovely porch in front and two dogs in the window. And all around it are signs of a warm Christmas spirit.
There is a classic 1950s cutout of Santa Claus at the front of the porch, and on the other side, two reindeer. There are two rocking chairs on the porch too, and it is here that Lena and Brian Schultz sat down to tell us their Christmas story.
They moved to the Lake Stevens area in 2019. They didn't know many people in the area, but they were eager to make friends and engage with their new neighborhood.
So, as Christmas approached that first year, they placed a small red mailbox at the end of their short driveway.
On the front was written, "Mail for Santa."
Lena said, "We just wanted to spread a little kindness and magic to our community and the world."
Brian added, "We put that out at the end of the driveway, and we posted it on Facebook and also on the Lake Stevens community page. And we started getting letters that first weekend."
Brian and Lena don't have children, but a trip to their little farm reveals that their lives certainly aren't lacking in the joy department.
There are furry and feathered friends all around the place. From dogs, turkeys, and goats to cows, sheep, and chickens. And a chaotic blur of wholesome, homey happiness.
As they showed us around, Lena opened up a sleeve of Fig Newton cookies, and the sound of the wrapper brought a handful of goats running.
One by one, Lena fed them their treats. "This is Poppy," she said. "She and her boys were the first ones. This is Zippy, she's a grandma goat."
It was quite a scene, and it was just the beginning. The two of them took a walk out into their pasture, past a bunch of ducks, and were met by two sheep. Out past the sheep were some cows, Pono, Kai, Kiko, and Malu. Lena calls them "Moo moo's," and as it turns out, they like Fig Newtons too.
There was a St. Bernard named Dude running around, and the king of the turkeys was a big tom called Jack.
Brian and Lena adore their animals. "We love them," said Lena. "It's why I think we're here on earth. The animals make me so happy. Every day is a good day with these guys."
And they adore Christmas.
"It was my Dad's favorite holiday, and so that's one of the reasons we started this," Brian said.
He's talking about the mailbox at the end of the driveway. His father passed away 11 years ago.
The letters started pouring in that first year, and before you knew it, they were meeting neighbors. Word spread quickly too. Every day they would check the mailbox, and there would be another handful of letters from kids around the area. Glorious, hand-written letters full of misspellings, adorable pictures, and hilarious, random lists of things they would like Santa to bring them.
The mailbox for Santa was their gift to the neighborhood.
The next year they got a bigger one. This Christmas season, it has a little roof built around it, with lights and decorations.
When we visited, some neighbor children, Dani and Boone, came riding up to deliver their letters on horseback! Their mom, Randi, was leading them on foot. In Lake Stevens, sights like that aren't all that uncommon.
The kids hopped off their steed Levi, who joined in the spirit of the occasion by wearing a Santa hat.
Dani dropped the letters in the box, climbed back on top of Levi, and they were gone.
Later on, from down the road in Granite Falls, three more children, Cameron, Morgan and Austin happily dropped off their letters.
In just three years, the mailbox has become a local tradition.
Brian told me from his rocking chair on the porch, "Anything we can do to put a smile on a child's face, we want to do it."
Watching the children drop off their letters is fun, but the great joy of the mailbox is in the reading of the letters.
They sit inside their home, at a table, sifting through the letters and organizing them for Santa. They are, when you think about it, little windows into the hearts and souls of our most precious people.
Brian read one that said, "Dear Santa, mom is helping me write some. I am on the nice list this year because I have been a good listener."
Lena opened one that said, "Dear Santa, my name is Lauren I am nine years old. This year, I've been very naughty and nice."
They laugh and look at the artwork that accompanies some letters. They said it fills them with the spirit of Christmas.
"This has become our favorite tradition," Lena said. "Opening the letters and seeing the drawings and reading the wishes from the kids. We started it for the kids, but I swear, we get just as much out of it."
Lena loves the innocence that the letters represent, so she can't bear to get rid of any of the letters. When we visited, she dumped three years' worth of letters onto a big table in the kitchen. It was wonderful to wade through all of those Christmas wishes.
For she and Brian, all those sweet little wishes have become memories.
They've found joy by putting Santa's mailbox at the end of their driveway in Lake Stevens. They've made friends, too, and created a beautiful little tradition.
Christmas at the Schultz farm will be a good one. The dogs will be running around with the goats and the sheep, and the cows. Jack the turkey will be spreading his feathers and making noise. So will the ducks and the chickens.
Lena and Brian will be checking the mailbox every morning and sorting through the very best kind of mail. The whole place will be filled with a chaotic blur of wholesome, homey happiness.