My advent series has really helped me stay focused on the meaning of Christmas and fueled my anticipation for Christmas morning. That may have all gone out the window today, because for now and the foreseeable future, I am completely locked in on next Christmas.
It started when we received our annual Christmas card from the Nilson family. I have been friends with Tyler since he was a teenager. Several years ago, I had one of the greatest honors in my life when Katie and I flew to the Virgin Islands where I officiated Tyler and his lovely wife Ashley's wedding. (Life comes full circle). Since the two of them became one, the highlight of our year has been receiving their Christmas card in the mail. They are both incredibly funny and creative, which is reflected in their cards.
So in our house, we have an advent calendar on one side of the refrigerator that counts down the twenty-some days until Christmas, and next to it is a calendar that counts down the three hundred and sixty-some days until the next Nilson family Christmas card arrives.
Each day for the past two weeks I've gone to the mailbox full of anticipation this might be the day. Finally, this past Tuesday, it was. When I saw the California postmark, I knew I was holding THE card. I bounced my way along the driveway to the house, all the while doing my best Steve Martin "the new phone books are here!" impression. (Steve Martin new phonebook clip).
Once Katie had calmed me down, we opened the card together. We pulled it out, a box of tissues nearby to break the flood of tears about to unleash from the river of uncontrollable laughter. I grabbed the card to steal the first peek. There it was. Tyler and Ashley. Walking their dogs on the beach. Like a million other people walk their dogs on the beach and then slap a picture of it on the front of a million uninspiring Christmas cards. Someone stop the calendar. Is it too late to cancel Christmas this year? I cannot do Christmas like this this year.
So I sent Tyler and Ashley a message and did what anyone would do who felt like they had just been swindled out of a perfectly hilarious Christmas card. I asked them if they were now an old married couple that sends out old married couple Christmas cards. Tyler and I debated the meaning of old married couple for a bit, before he redeemed himself by giving me the idea of a Christmas card they were going to send - but didn't. The image, although not captured brilliant colors and all on card stock paper, managed to bring me at least a memory of Christmas cards past. Here is Tyler's description:
I'm (Tyler) dressed as Joseph, Ash is Mary, and you and the boys are dressed as three wise men. We make Lazer (their dog) swaddle up like baby Jesus, and then we make Katie dress up like a farm animal... group family Christmas card!
Now that's what I'm talking about. That's the Nilson family Christmas card. I get it in the mail and it leaves me with images of my wife as some sort of farm animal in a manger until the next Christmas card arrives next year to replace it. Absolutely gut rolling and tying itself in knots funny. (I don't know if Katie reads my blog, but we're about to find out.)
Anyway, if I can put that image aside for a moment, this whole conversation led to something I never imagined, but will now spend the next year planning for. The first annual Christmas card duel. The Cartwrights take on the Nilsons. The winner gets...we don't know yet...something. And we don't know yet how the winner will be determined. But my mind is now fully engaged in coming up with the perfect 2014 Christmas card, because Tyler hates to lose, and I love beating people who hate to lose. Oh, how my 2013 advent focus has come completely unglued.
If you think I've been to harsh on Tyler and Ashley, you can follow the progression of their recent progression of Christmas cards below, from a couple of years back at the top, down to the bottom and the one we received in the mail this week. We love these guys. They are incredibly talented and giving people. And they are both going down in the 2014 battle of the Christmas cards!