I have a two-part ritual at the end of every December. As I pack away the Christmas decorations, I allow myself a sentimental moment and get a little misty. My kids just roll their eyes. But I value that time of reflection, of remembering the moments and laughter and precious loved ones who are gone–and wondering what the next year will bring. Will it be the same next year?

When I have everything packed away, then comes the fun part. I get absolutely giddy as I hang my shiny new calendar on the wall. My brother calls this a little creepy. But a blank calendar is all about hope. It signifies a new start, endless possibilities, the chance to fix and improve and strive and dream big, big dreams.

Come New Year’s Day, I pick a motto or theme to live by for the next 365 days. I write it down and try to say it often and think about it throughout the day. For 2011, my motto is: Live with joy—no matter what the circumstances.

A friend of mine said, “There are so many people going through hard, hard times right now, I feel a little guilty that my life is going well.” I have felt that way so many times. I figure when life is going well, it’s my chance to stand by the hurting and offer encouragement, because eventually, the hard times will come my way again.

Right now, there are things weighing heavy on my heart, but I am choosing to live with joy. A sign at my doctor’s office made me laugh—and cringe. “All of our patients bring us joy. Some when they arrive. And some when they leave.” Ouch.

I want to be someone who brings joy wherever I go—no matter what. Because joy is different from happiness. It isn’t dependent on outside events. It comes from way down deep, from knowing how blessed I am. It’s an unshakable confidence that even though I don’t know the future, God does. Nothing will come my way that hasn’t passed through His hands first.

 No matter what, I can choose to live with joy.

 So, what’s your motto for 2011? I’d love to know what it is.