I often ask myself when making big decisions, “Will this even matter in five years?”

Few times have I been able to answer yes to that question, but the day I published the last issue of the North Central Reporter was one of them. That was six years ago this week, and I have no doubt that the decision I made then is a direct link to where I am today. The decision was a scary one, but one that has allowed me (forced me, at times) to grow and learn and experience life in ways I never dreamed possible.

Sometimes, I forget exactly why I closed the paper. A part of me was ashamed by my decision: I felt like a real let-down to many faithful subscribers. A part of me was relieved of not having to work round the clock and pretend like nasty comments from the public don’t sting a bit sometimes.

I was reminded this morning when I was scrolling through my Facebook memories exactly why I took that giant leap and how much support I received after taking it … and the adventures we’ve had since we’ve done it!

Some words of encouragement from 2010 when I published my last column announcing the closure of the paper:

“Wow Korina! I’m going to miss having you over there in the newspaper business. I admire you for knowing what God wants for you and the courage to follow through on it. … You will never regret spending time with your kids.” – Helen Barrett (Helen, I can never express how much our friendship has sustained me. I’m so thankful for Facebook for this reason!)

“Well *&^%! I know what you’re going through, and I am too back in school at the age of 39, but we’ll always be newspaper people, even if there comes a day when no one remembers what that means, God forbid. … Good luck girl, and keep your head up. When you give something all you have, as I know you did, you always have something to be proud of.” – Joe Gray (Joe, I don’t even know if you read my blog, but if you do, thanks so much for this note way back when. Yes, we will always be newspaper people, and you’re my favorite Joe in the newspaper biz. It was great working with you, and who knows, maybe we’ll enjoy a margarita again one day in the future!)

“Count me among the sad ones, Korina. You’ve made such a fine contribution to Oklahoma journalism. You and your newspaper will be sorely missed, especially by your community. But I’m proud of your courage in taking this next step in your life. Know that all of us are pulling for you and know you’ll succeed in whatever you set your mind to. Guess that’s a -30-.” – Gloria Trotter (Gloria, what a mentor you have been to me! I’m not sure you and Wayne realize what pillars you are in Oklahoma journalism, but I remember being a university student going to my first journalism conference, giddy about the possible opportunity to meet you, among so many others, who paved the way for me. I hope I can inspire half the journalists that you both have during your careers.)

“Boo Hoo! I’m one of those sad ones, but I am also excited for you and the endeavor the Lord has set before you. May you enjoy your time as a wife and mom … and then as a college student. Blessings Korina and GOOD LUCK!” – Michelle Webster (Thanks, Michelle, for your encouragement and your support then and now.)

A wife and a mom … and a college student. This sounds familiar. Maybe because 2015 was a repeat of 2010, which scared me to even think about this time last year. The year 2010 was a bit disastrous for me. Yes, I started graduate studies as planned, but I also got divorced and lost my dad very quickly to cancer. I became a single mom again. I went back into work full-time. My studies got put on the back burner. My life did a complete 180. So when I felt at the beginning of 2015 that I needed to be a mom and a college student and prepare to be a wife again, I was scared. I saw first what I consider “the defeat of 2010,” but then I saw what actually happened: I wasn’t defeated in 2010. I was propelled into a place that could only bring healing and new growth.

Can I say this all happened because I closed my newspaper? No. But that’s my restarting point, or at least that’s how I see it. Looking back, I can see how obeying this (weird) call to action has lent, and continues to lend, strength and knowledge to whatever lies ahead.

The year 2015 was certainly a year of (re)learning for me – (re)learning in the classroom, (re)learning about others, (re)learning acceptance, forgiveness, compatibility, cultural differences … and (re)learning about love. You’d think at 43 I’d know a lot about love already, but I’ve learned and (re)learned a lot about love this year. Crazy love!

I’ve learned it’s OK to love what you do as long as you love it for the right reasons. I’ve learned that loving isn’t easy, no matter what it is you’re loving. I’ve learned loving is easier when you can accept being loved.

Thank you all for loving us through this year and the four years since we embarked on this crazy adventure. We love you right back.

Here are some things I really LOVE about 2015 (click on the first photo to see cutlines and scroll through the photos):

WHAT’S AHEAD FOR 2016?

The year is already rolling! The girls started back to school Monday and will continue with homeschool cooperative and sports classes next week. The boys will continue their studies. William is a freshman at a bilingual Christian school, and Albert is a sophomore at a Thai school. Albert just started working at 7-11 and seems to be enjoying his new job (or at least the paycheck at the end of the month!). Joseph has informed me that he and Kelsi will get married. For now, mum’s the word. Details soon! They both just changed jobs and moved closer to Chicago. Joseph’s company has an office in Bangkok. Future visit? Hope so!

I start back to graduate studies classes Monday. I have three terms to complete, which should end in July, and then I will have one year to complete my thesis. Also, I will begin teaching English classes in February to the Royal Thai Navy. This opportunity is a huge blessing for us! The Thai Navy will provide us with a long-term work permit, health insurance and a small monthly salary. I won’t teach full time, but the hours I will teach will give me valuable classroom experience and a little cushion to our monthly support while allowing me to continue my graduate studies and youth work at Christ Church Bangkok. We will be teaching the youth about missions this year, so I believe we may have a few short-term mission trips in the upcoming months. I hope so! I have missed being on the field this year, so I’m looking forward to getting back out there.

Russ just signed a new three-year contract with his university, so we will be in Thailand at least another three years. This year will mark his 20th year in the country and his 17th year with the same university. I’m very proud of him. I won’t get all mushy in my newsletter, but he really is THAT guy I always knew existed and took almost half a lifetime to find. I hope one day you all get to meet him. He’s never been to America, so he has lots of (fairly reasonable) plans on how to make a good impression during his first go! (We’re stilling working on perfecting each other’s accents. It’s slow-going.)

I think that about catches us up! I apologize for my long absence. I hope you all are enjoying a fantastic new year and that 2016 brings you many blessings and MUCH LOVE!

Russ, Korina, Joseph, Kelsi, Albert, William, Jaynee, Justine, Shanti (Might as well include us all! Besides, I wanted to see if our names could take up an entire line. Close! I am blessed! Happy New Year!)

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