One of my earliest memories is that of standing outside in the springtime in a shirt and shorts watching Mom and Dad work in a little garden plot with great enthusiasm.

I was probably about three years old. Gabe was not yet one year. The sun was shining warmly on the part in my frizzy hair (it had just been unbraided) and the wind was a little cool on my legs. That morning I was as sour as a green papaya and couldn’t think of a reason why. Of course my foul mood got me a spanking with a spring sapling, and my attitude miraculously disappeared. I remember my folks reminding me of my middle name, Joy, and calling me to the responsibility it carried. That episode was repeated consistently throughout my childhood until all moodiness was thoroughly stamped out of me. Attitude manipulation worked with my parents about as well as a one-legged frog on the interstate.

Now as a wife and mother I find joy to be one of the most useful attributes a woman could have. At church meetings I see a wife turn down the corners of her mouth, make her eyes become despondent, and her shoulders droop when she sees her husband glance at her. And a glance is all it is. Who wants to look at a picture like that? He turns away with a hardened smile, determined to enjoy the meeting in spite of her.

In contrast, I look at my husband and he looks at me. I smile at him with all the joy and gratitude my life is worth as he smiles back at me with lingering pleasure. “You’re beautiful today,” he whispers. And I know why.