Mrs. Smith has sent another chicken carcass over to my house. It is meaty because Mrs. Smith isn’t interested in the economics of meat the way I am. She doesn’t mind doing a half-hearted job on a four-pound fryer, especially since she knows my children love the way she roasts chicken. Something about the way she uses a half-stick of butter to baste it makes it taste better, they tell me.
Mrs. Smith saves her chicken bones for me because of Jonathan. Once, when he was helping Mrs. Smith with some chores around her house, she asked him to throw away some chicken bones for her.
Jonathan was a little perplexed. Those bones were a good two meals away from the trash can, and Jonathan thought he must have heard her wrong. “Don’t you want to make soup out of it first?” he asked, agonizing over the benevolent bones.
Mrs. Smith was surprised. “Oh, I can’t be bothered with that anymore,” she said. Although, Jonathan knew Mrs. Smith could make a fine stock, back in the day when she used to sell lasagnas to her bosses for fifty dollars a pop. “I used three different kinds of cheeses,” she explained, as if to justify their extravagant purchase.
Jonathan listened and considered what to do. It was a very meaty chicken carcass. There’s never that much meat left on a chicken that’s been served at our table. Mrs. Smith hadn’t even touched one whole wing, and bits of white meat mocked him from the bones.
“Can I…can I bring this to my mom?” he asked.
It had not even occurred to Mrs. Smith to save us her chicken bones.
Now, whenever Mrs. Smith roasts a chicken, which seems to be more often now that my husband is out of work, Mrs. Smith packs the leftovers in a casserole dish nestled inside of two grocery bags, paper on the inside, plastic on the outside, and calls Jonathan to come and get it.
Sometimes, she’s only taken a little bite out of one half and says she can’t eat any more, and we all marvel because it is completely ridiculous for a single woman to roast a whole chicken for herself.
But Mrs. Smith is not roasting it for herself. She’s roasting it for us.
And Mrs. Smith tells Mrs. Greenlee that I make chicken stock out of the bones, and Mrs. Greenlee tells Mrs. Smith that I bake my own bread, and they both smile and nod and steel up their resolve to feed my children more cookies because they both know.
They know what it’s like to feed a family out of the scraps and the leftovers and the would-be discarded things. They’ve both done it. Nearly every mother from their generation did, not because it was fashionable but because it was necessary.
And while it might not be the most glorious thing, to pick through bones and skin, scavenging for some redeeming bit, they both know there’s a tremendous joy in that, in gathering up the parts that might have gone to waste and making something of it.
I feel that joy myself because I love redemption in any form. I love it in a stock pot full of bones and discarded vegetable trimmings that could’ve been thrown to the compost pile but instead have been saved in the freezer for such a time as this. I love it in the hands of Christ, breaking bread and serving not-enough fish to a crowd that ended up with plenty. I love it in the call to sinners so broken, they can’t possibly be worth a thing. Yet theirs is the Kingdom of God.
It is the leftover things, the scraps, the nothings that make up the beautiful story of the cross. It is the leftovers, the scraps, the nothings that allow me to nourish my children richly and deeply. It is the leftovers, the scraps, the nothings that make up such a beautiful part of my day.
So on this beautiful day, as the rich stock simmers on my stove and the smell of garlic and onions makes me happy to be inside, I am thankful that nothing is lost. Nothing is discarded. Everything can be redeemed.
Today, I get to do a little redemptive work myself, transforming the broken bones into something good. It is a small thing, but it is a godly thing. And on this beautiful day of motherhood, I am happy for the small and godly things that speak of the truest parts of heaven. Broken. Cast off.