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     Forgiveness. What sometimes appears to be such a simple concept is often one of the most difficult things to do. I found it ironic that today's devotion for the kids was on such a huge topic, yet it had the shortest memory verse of the summer yet. Psalm 130:4 "But you offer forgiveness." The text talks about how God offers forgiveness to us when we've done something wrong.... but it was hard to look at the verse as anything other than a command to us. To me. But you offer forgiveness. You offer it when it's hard. You offer it when it's painful. You offer it when it's undeserved. My mind instantly jumped back to when Taylor took rocks and drew all over the hood of my car because she was angry that I had a meeting and couldn't spend time with her. Small whispers filled my heart. You offer forgiveness. And as I pictured Cameron saying very inappropriate things to his sister when he thought no one could hear, and then lying repeatedly when confronted, I was struck between the eyes (harder than a bee sting) with the words You offer forgiveness.
     Phrases like "kids will be kids" didn't do much to aid my forgiveness towards these two for a long time, let me tell you! I held grudges like nobody's business, and my children were fully aware of it. I took each action as a personal attack (as sometimes they were) and I let unforgiveness set as firm as cement in my heart towards them. So, when I opened those pages today and saw the topic, I cringed. How in the world am I supposed to be the one to teach them forgiveness when they've seen me be bitter and vengeful so many times? You offer forgiveness.....
     We worked on memorizing the 4-word verse, which both Cameron and Taylor immediately forgot, proving once again that summer vacation is far too long. We then read the story that went along with the verse about a girl that had stolen $5 from her sister. She felt so guilty about what she did that she wasn't able to sleep until she confessed her sin to God and her sister and asked for forgiveness from them both. I wasn't born yesterday, so I was fully aware of the stolen glances my children were giving to one another as I read. Guilt. It was there as plain as the growing noses on their faces. I stopped reading for a moment and looked between the two of them.
     "Is there something you two would like to tell me?" I asked calmly. Simultaneous head nods occurred.... only Taylor nodded her head 'Yes' while Cameron nodded his 'No'. Hmmmm... "Is there something that you're both feeling guilty about, but that you don't want to tell me?" Again with the nodding discrepancy. "Taylor, is there something you and Cameron did together that you want to get off your heart, but you don't want Cameron to get mad at you?" It was no where close to a long shot, but she stared at me like I was capable of voodoo with all my magical mind-reading powers going on and all. "Yes," she spoke slowly. "Well, that and I don't want to get grounded and have to miss Artsy Doodle today." I turned my gaze towards Cameron. "What about you? Anything you're feeling right now?" I asked. "Well, there might be something.... but maybe you could promise that we won't get in trouble if we tell you?" he ventured.
     Ah, the thin line us parents walk presents itself. Teach our children the value of confession or teach them that there is a consequence for every action and risk them lying to cover up their mistakes. So, I tried to balance the tight rope carefully and attempted to do both. "Well, here's the thing. Depending on what it is will depend on if there needs to be a consequence of not." (I mean, it's not like they haven't done some pretty outrageous and dangerous things before!) "If I were to break the law, there would still be a consequence despite me apologizing to the police officer, right?" I continued. They both nodded their heads in agreement and looked at each other one last time.
     It was Taylor who cracked first. "Well.... sometimes we sneak candy when you're upstairs with the baby, even when you've told us not to." Phew, ok, that's not horrible! Forgive. I can do this one! "Thank you for telling me," I said. "I forgive you."
     Cameron seemed to immediately grow braver. "And we ate most of Dad's pack of gum... you remember that day when you asked us about it and we told you Dad said we could have some and that you could call him and check? Yeah, he didn't tell us that and we were really glad you didn't call him." I felt a little tension in the back of my neck and I casually rolled my shoulders to shrug it away. Alright. Lying sucks, but at least they're being honest now, right? "Ok, thank you. I forgive you again."
     Taylor sat up straighter and jumped in again. "And sometimes we give the dogs the food we don't like from our plates when you leave the room.... even the stuff we know the dogs aren't allowed to eat because it makes them sick. You forgive me, right?" That explains the random piles of dog vomit I've had to clean up over the last few weeks. Tension.... there was more tension. It crept down my spine and made my tummy constrict, ever so slightly. To the untrained eye, however, I was rocking my forgiveness on the outside. "You do realize that you can hurt the dogs by doing this, and that we have these rules for a reason, right?" I said with an amazingly calm composure. "Yes," they agreed in unison. "Ok.... I forgive you, but do not let it happen again, do you understand?"
     Apparently in the sharing mood now, Cameron confidently informed me that, while playing outside some time ago, they found an old pop bottle with left over pop in it. He said that they kept it (along with stolen snacks) in the old refrigerator (that they were told repeatedly not to play with) out on the junk pile and that they would sneak into the fridge and drink pop and eat snacks when they wanted some... this was over the course of a couple months from what I gathered. Mental images frantically ran through my mind of Punky and Cherry playing hide-and-seek in that ever famous 80's episode that ended with Cherry being found unconscious after getting stuck in an old refrigerator (if you're a girl and you're in your 30's, you know what I'm talking about!).
     "You did WHAT?" I asked the two kids sitting in front of me. Their confidence vanished immediately and they gazed at each other with looks that said, See what you did? You woke the vengeful beast and now we're in trouble! Tension.... it seemed to leave my stomach and was making my eye twitch, ever so slightly. "Do you guys have any idea how dangerous it is to play in an old refrigerator?? That's why I told you so many times not to go near it because it is unsafe. And did you even think about what would happen by leaving food out in the yard? We have COYOTES! Not to mention racoons and crazy Mother-attacking hornets that are drawn to these things! Ugh, and you have no idea whose pop that even was, OR how long it had been outside! Would you pick up someone's chewed gum from a parking lot and eat it?? OF COURSE NOT! BECAUSE IT'S GROSS!!!" Tension.... crazy eyes.... heightened blood pressure....
     But you offer forgiveness.
     Ah, crap.
     Weak, nervous voices asked the question of the hour. "Do you forgive us?" I contemplated their request for a moment. Such a thin line. I want them to know that forgiveness doesn't give them permission to continue intentionally doing things they know are wrong. And I don't want them to think that there's no consequence for disobedience. But I also don't want them to think they can't tell me things they've done wrong out of fear of getting in trouble, especially when they can't even give me an accurate time of when these things occurred in the first place. And quite frankly, did I even want to forgive them? I mean, who knows how long this fun game of confessions will continue if I keep granting them forgiveness! How many times are they expecting me to do this? My guess was 70 times 7.
     "Ok. I forgive you. Both of you." I said eventually. I mean, you're idiots, but I forgive you.... Ugh, tension!! They looked relieved. I sat, waiting for any other confessions to come flying at me, but my kids seemed to realize that this game had run it's course and that they'd better quit while they were ahead. "Do you guys feel any better now that you've told me what you've done and that I forgave you?" I asked. "Um, can we still go to Artsy Doodle?" Taylor tried. You can't blame the girl for checking. "Yes.... you can still go to Artsy Doodle." She brightened and said, "Then yes! I feel a lot better. I already asked Jesus to forgive me for being sneaky.... but now you forgived me, too, so I feel good. And I'll try not to be sneaky anymore, ok?
     My grin was tight under this burden of forgiveness, but I knew that it was my job to teach them this valuable lesson... my job to right the wrongs I'd shown them by my actions months ago. "Well... good. I'm glad you feel better then."
     Both kids cleared their books from the table and decided on going outside for a while to play. I wasn't going to argue! A little alone time is never something a Mama turns down in August - certainly not when the "I'm bored"s and the "Ugh, it's too hooootttt to play outside"s are in full swing at this particular point of summer vacation. And as Taylor walked past me, she looked up at me, patted my shoulder and said, "Good job, Mom," before walking off.
     Thanks, kiddo.

Psalm 130:3-5
     "If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, therefore you are feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope."