I am the family’s everyday dishes.

No one has ever described me as “dainty” or “precious”. I am hardy and used to withstanding heat and pressure. I am not saved for a special occasion.

I am the daughter who came home. I’m the local girl who will bring the green beans when the special relatives come back for a visit. I’m not the one you plan around or schedule out in advance. I am the last-minute, the “Oh, by the way,” the “If you don’t mind.” I am the one who drops by, who brings the extra tomatoes from her garden, who knows how everybody’s kids are doing in school and when my dad is away on business.

I am the mother who stays home. I don’t return from somewhere exciting to be met with hugs and exclamations of joy. I am the everyday, every day mom who is there when you wake up each morning and there to put you to bed that night. I’m the constant in a changing world and during each season of motherhood from the diapers to the driver’s license, I will be the same. I will be present until I am almost forgettable. I am not new and shiny. I’m the creator of routines, the keeper of the chore chart, the reason we are all sane which some days costs me a little of my own sanity.

I am the faithful wife. Each day a little older, a little grayer, a little more wise and a little less gullible. I’m here when you get home, hot meal on the table, remnants of the day’s lipstick barely clinging to my lips. I keep the laundry managed, the bathrooms clean, and I wonder if you see me anymore. My adventures are small—a trip to the library, a lunch with friends, a church event. Will you care about them when I tell you? Will you see them as I do or will they look like the unimportant escapades of a bored housewife?

I am the everyday dishes of my family. But I don’t resent it.

I am the one you can count on to be present in a crisis. I’m not too fragile for your problems. I’m familiar and faithful enough to be trusted with any job and every joy. I’ve seen you at your worst and I’ve loved you at your best. I’ve been a witness to it all because I have been here through it all. I haven’t been spared or saved or hidden away. I am chipped and stained and glued back together from the hardships I’ve seen. But I’m strong.

The fine china never knows the joy of the mundane—a happiness I’ve become so familiar with. To be ever-present means to have seen the first steps, the first words, and the first love notes and locker combinations. I haven’t missed a thing and I’ve cherished it all in my heart. I’ve noticed the subtle changes in your demeanor when the day has been hard and I scramble to know how to make it right. I know the recipes you love and when you need a minute to yourself or a night with friends. I stay just above the chaos, coordinating, managing, swimming with my head barely above the surface.

I don’t regret becoming the everyday dishes. There’s a place for the fancy and fine, but that’s not me. I can appreciate the beauty of those who haven’t been broken by this world and I can wish for them the life I wasn’t given or maybe never really wanted—a life of adventure or a life of being favored or being precious. But I will instead find joy in being dependable and predictable. I will be confident that my mother knows I will come when there’s a crisis and I will always bring the green beans when the family comes to town. I will be thankful that my kids know I’m safe, I’m fully present, I love them and I’m near when they need me and joyfully cheering them on when they don’t. I will be content to know my husband sees me as his closest friend and trusts me with an intimacy he doesn’t share with anyone else. And I will continue to invest in myself with a value on growing and learning while also embracing who I love to be.

I don’t need to invent dreams I’m supposed to follow. I don’t have to become some superwoman version of myself to be worthy of love. I don’t need to do more or be more to prove I have value. I can be the everyday dishes of my family. And that can be enough.

Maralee Bradley

Maralee is a mom of six pretty incredible kids ages 8 and under. Four were adopted (one internationally from Liberia, three through foster care in Nebraska) and two were biological surprises. Prior to becoming parents, Maralee and her husband were houseparents at a children’s home and had the privilege of helping to raise 17 boys during their five year tenure. Maralee is passionate about caring for kids, foster parenting and adoption, making her family a fairly decent dinner every night, staying on top of the laundry, watching ridiculous documentaries and doing it all for God’s glory. Maralee can be heard on My Bridge Radio talking about motherhood on "A Mother's Heart for God" and what won't fit in a 90 second radio segment ends up at www.amusingmaralee.com.