Returning to your home country after a couple years away – some things you (re)discover the first couple weeks back…

1. New Jersey has a certain charm. It’s a wise-guy, how-you-doin?, swagger kind of charm. And there’s a part of me deep down that really loves it (much to the the concern of my dear wife).

2. Our church is cool.

3. Broadcast television is obnoxious, or mostly so.

4. The roads are wide and smooth and orderly. (They drive on the right-hand side incidentally.)

5. Missionary kids who grow up in Africa are woefully unprepared for the game of dodge-ball.

Amelia, bravely venturing off to the middle-school youth group on Sunday night, found this out. I missed the actual impact, but from eyewitness accounts I could imagine how it happened to the poor girl. There in the middle of a loud and spasmodic crowd of 6th grade boys who split into two teams and armed themselves with rubber balls, she stood. Innocent and holding firm to her belief in the better nature of humankind, she briefly watched the game unfold. And there, deer-in-the-headlights like, she got creamed in the face. I came by shortly after since I was the guest speaker that night and found my little girl with her head buried in an ice pack, but being a good sport about it. The new youth leader, laden with guilt, was quick to admit that it was he who hurled the fateful ball that took out one of the church missionary kids. I chuckled and tussled Amelia’s hair as I twisted her glasses back into shape. If anyone was at fault, it was me I figured.

On a side note… American middle-school kids can reportedly text on their smart-phones WHILE they play dodge-ball (A skill I’m sure the US military will be interested in some day.) Amelia placed particular emphasis on the fact that they all HAVE smart phones, and therefore she would fit in better if she had one too.

When it comes to covetousness thoughts however, the Apple Store remains my greatest weakness. The place is way too nice, and the staff way too helpful. And I can think of way too many reasons why I need one of everything.

And speaking of ways you can get in trouble with your credit card, you can actually use one to pay for your Taco Bell burritos at the drive through window. Swipe, sign, “would you like any hot sauce with that sir?”. I was surprised by this transaction. The tortillas however, taste like rubber, so really, what have you gained?

Frank’s Pizza is still the best around. It’s thin and crispy and delicious, and when you fold it in half to take that first bite, the grease runs out the back and stains your paper plate red. And all those places like Frank’s where you used to go to have a slice and a conversation with your dad remind you how much you miss him. After a long assignment overseas, it’s little things like a mouthful of pizza and a couple happy memories that make me feel like I’ve come home.