Bixby Hills was grand. It was a rich and beautiful place, except for one thing: conformity to worldliness was apparent throughout the gated community. The homes were not mansions, but they were big and luxurious. Everyone parked their fancy cars in garages to show off clean driveways with weedless cement seams. Yards were manicured like high-maintenance ladies and gentlemen. Pruned palm trees stood erect like guard towers. A dandelion wouldn’t dare to show its face on a Bixby Hill’s lawn. No sir. That would be a fatal mistake.
Fashions and fads sizzled and fizzled quick — like a sparkler on the Fourth of July. Shiny new cars, boats, and shoes lost their appeal lickety-split as soon as newer, trendier things came out calling. The women all donned the same hairdos, diamond rings, and pouty lips. The men were not unlike the women, only more macho. There was an ongoing unofficial race to be the one to obtain the newest best thing first, and everyone needed to win. It was exhausting and unfulfilling. Nonetheless, it never ended until a pair of nonconformists came into their midst.
Mable and Don Bouchard drove beat-up old cars, dressed in simple, plain clothes, and moved worn, mismatched furniture into their house. They attempted to befriend the neighbors as they settled into their new home, but at first, the people of Bixby Hills pooh-poohed them like yesterday’s whim. The hivemind rejected what didn’t belong, like children playing the Sesame Street game, “Which of these things is not like the others? Which of these things doesn’t belong?”
The Bouchards stood out like a couple of ripe bananas in a bowl full of cherries. But soon, the residents of Bixby Hills noticed something admirable about their newest neighbors. They were joyful. So, when the Bouchards invited their neighbors to a house-warming party, everyone accepted.
As the guests arrived, their heads tilted back, one by one, to look up at a massive mobile, created by Don Bouchard, out of repurposed material that was hanging from the ceiling of the entryway. Without exception, every eye frolicked to take it all in, every petulant pout released pent-up pearly whites, every lung took in a puff of air. The mobile’s concentric circles, wavy lines, vivid jewel tones, and optical illusions pulled ooze and awe from the upper-middle-class dilettantes. Respect dislodged harsh judgment. None of them were expecting to be impressed, yet they were.
Once everyone was inside, the grand tour commenced. Yes, the furniture was old, but it looked comfy and emanated a different kind of luxury that money cannot buy, contentment in plenty or want. Don was a sculptor, Mable, a painter, and their artwork was on display throughout the whole house. All of it was exquisite. The guests were served drinks and made welcome to look around as they pleased.
During the evening, a particular painting drew each guest’s attention so that each one would slip away from the pack to spend a moment alone gazing upon it. It was Mable Bouchard’s portrait of Mother Mary holding baby Jesus Christ. The way light and shadow, color, shade, and tone captured the expression of perfect peace, mercy, and grace on Mary’s face sent shivers of hope into raptured hearts. Much like Mona Lisa’s smile, it was compelling to look at it. One felt drawn to those eyes, even as it pierced the spirit with new longings.
Every time one of the guests finished looking at Mary, they would go to either Mabel or Don and ask questions about it, only to find the Bouchards had eyes just like Mary’s eyes. They both had a manner of speech that conveyed authenticity of love and new life as they shared the gospel and their testimonies.
By the end of the night, the neighbors decided to start a weekly small group bible study to fellowship and learn all about Jesus. A transformation happened at the party that night as quick and surprising as the sound of a starter pistol shooting to start a new official race, one not exhausting nor unfulfilling but exhilarating and super fulfilling indeed.
Jill Kelley is a grateful believer and follower of Jesus Christ experiencing victory over a twenty-seven-year addiction to drugs and alcohol, one day at a time, for over five years now. She is a training coach and leader at Celebrate Recovery. And she is an artist seeking to stretch her artistic expression through creative writing.