- Oroville – I have been largely shaped by this community. Because of this town: I have learned the value and rarity of a dollar. I have learned how to make my own adventures. I have learned how to not offend, but to make peace (because it’s a small town, and you’ll see people again and again). I have seen that beauty can come from brokenness. I have had an impeccable education because the teachers are largely there because they care, not because the pay is good. I value the colors of fall, the rains of winter, the blossoms of spring, and the gold of summer. I have seen how crippling greed can be. I have learned to value those who serve me, even if it’s their job. I have learned how to be accountable, and how to hold others accountable. I have experienced the beauty and grace of community: to still be friends with people I have literally known my whole life, to know with certainty that I couldn’t spiral too far out of control without someone stepping in to intervene, to have the liberty to walk out of a high school classroom because normal life was too much to handle in the face of grief. I have learned how to be friends with people who don’t live like I do, look like I do, believe what I believe, and people who are not my age. I have learned how to be a person of integrity. I have been privileged to live in a place where it never takes more than 15 minutes to drive somewhere in town, where you see someone you know whenever you go out, where I had a yard to play in, and where hand-me-downs were in abundance.
- My Home Church—my family of hundreds. I am grateful for this body of people who lives together and loves together. Who worships together, and plays together. Who grows together through the weather of the years. This church staff who listens to the voice of God and obeys, even when it seems unconventional or inconvenient. God is on the move in our city, and he is moving through the lives of willing people in this body. I am thankful that we have the ability and the willingness to laugh together and cry together. To grieve together and celebrate together. To be together. In my darkest moments of life, where pain and doubt abounded, it was this group of people who comforted me, carried me, challenged me, and participated in my journey toward healing. When there is reason to celebrate we do. When God has called me to different areas, they have supported me. This is family. These people, these hundreds of people – ones I have known my whole life, and ones I have only known for a few years – I love them. I would do anything I could to help them in their time of need, and they have done everything they could to help me similarly. This is community. And I am thankful for it.
- My Family –Mom, Dad, (Julie), and Jason – I am thankful for our family unit, and for the individuals who comprise it. I am thankful for the way my siblings and I were raised. Though it is nice to know that we are easily financially stable now, I am grateful for a frugal childhood. I am glad that I was not given everything I had a whim for, because I have since learned how to distinguish what is a passing desire, and what desires are big, and more important to me. I learned the art of saving money. I learned to cherish and value the luxury of eating out once in a while (and I learned how to be happy with an order that was under $3). I am thankful for a smallish car that squished us kids together in the back seat – I believe it has something to do with my now strong love-language of physical touch to those that I am closest to. Because of our homeschooling, I learned how to learn by unconventional means (ex:learning about native American lifestyle by dressing up in dresses and moccasins, building teepees, and lighting fires in our backyard (this part was done without parental supervision or consent). Homeschooling also taught me the wonderful experience of reading for hours on end. And how to be friends with kids of all ages. Because of our cross-country road trips I have seen many of our 50 states. Since 2004, my family has also taught me how to redefine normal. How to create new traditions. How to relearn what I thought I knew.
o Mom—I am grateful for my mom’s examples she has always set for me. When we were young, she taught me the importance of giving to those in need, even if it meant making a sacrifice. When she had lime disease, she set an example of how to suffer with grace and peace, with perseverance and prayer. Since my teen years, she’s been an example of how to seek the living God, even in the midst of sorrow and suffering. She’s been a steadfast example of embracing brokenness in order to let it shape you. I am grateful for her continual examples of how to seek God, live compassionately, persevere through things we’d rather skip, her adventurous spirit, and her willingness to be stretched.
o Dad—I am grateful for my dad’s acceptance. I remember when I was little, I was so enamored with him that I was proud that my skin was tan like his, and that my hair was blond like his used to be. When I was little, and Julie and Jason were old enough to do other things, he made me feel special by creating the “daddy Joanna club” where we got to hang out and play games and go to the library and eat chicken mcnuggets sometimes. I am grateful for the bike rides and camping trips of my youth. I am grateful that he really listened when I told him and my mom that I was done trying to always be the best in school and in life. And for the fact that, when I was griping about calculus class, he asked if I needed to take it if I didn’t want to go into any sort of math field (which, before wouldn’t have even been a question. If an AP class was offered, O’Hanlon’s took it). I am grateful that he has allowed me to find who I am, even if it meant going to Malawi (and signing a “I will not pay a ransom fee if my child is abducted” contract), or to Switzerland for a year, or to Greece alone. And I am grateful that he watches FRIENDS with me, and finds them funny.
o Julie—I am grateful for my sister’s presence. Sharing a room with Julie while growing up has made me a very adaptable person. I can read under a blanket. I can enter quietly, when needed. I can sleep with the light on and without quiet, and I can sleep deeply. I can clean my portion of a room when told. I can tell someone to clean their portion of the room. I am grateful for her leadership. And for all the Christmas morning that all 3 of us would get up at 4am and play board games in our room until our parents were willing to wake up. I am grateful that she showed us how well we could do at things if we put our mind and effort into it. I am grateful for Julie’s footsteps. I learned to play the piano well, I learned how to run (not well), I learned how to study, and I learned how to believe I could reach high goals all because of her. I am grateful for her life, and I am grateful to believe she’d be okay with me living my own, in my own way.
o Jason– I am grateful for my brother’s love. The proof is in the dent on the top of my head because he rubbed it too much when I was a baby, before my “soft spot” grew hard. I am grateful that he let me hang out with him and his friends growing up, playing outside, building forts, swinging and jumping off, climbing trees and jumping out, setting fires, going on bike rides, mucking around in the creek in the rain. He has always taken pains to take care of me (except when I was the guinea pig for his experimental/”scientific” potions he used to make me drink before our parents found out about them). I am grateful that he has let me live and adventure with him, and that he has also has wanted to make sure I was safe in the process (ex: before jumping off the swings in our backyard, he made me go in and put some shoes on). I am grateful that we are friends, and that he mostly supports my gallivanting adventures around the globe. I am grateful that we have history, present, and future as a brother and sister who get along and love each other. And I am grateful that I know how to hold my own, and I’m not intimidated by big strong confident men. I probably owe my surprising levels of physical strength to his years of attempted (semi-playful) bullying.
- My Friends– my friends around the world, old and new. I love them. I am grateful for the vast lessons they’ve taught me, and the love they’ve shown me. And I am grateful for the memories and stories we have created together. You’re all exceptionally important parts of my story. And I am thankful for the chance to be a character in all of your stories as well.
- My God—It is the biggest blessing of all to have a God who has given me everything. Who has given me the very breath to be able to breathe these offerings of thanks. Words cannot describe the things He has taught me, or given me for which I am grateful. I continually find myself awed and in tears because of how great his grace and love are. He is the remedy to our brokenness. And I am grateful for it.