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For some people, accepting Jesus comes easily. For others, it takes time. Sometimes a long time.

The morning I tried to crucify my mother, I discovered my sinful nature. I was five when I positioned the pointed end of a bobby pin against her hand. I thought, If I nail Mommy to her bed, the baby will have to wait until I let Mommy go.

“Pound, pound,” I said as my fist tapped the pin.

My mother awoke with a scream, grabbed the bobby pin, and shouted, “What are you doing? That’s what people did to Jesus.” Hot guilt flooded over me. I love Jesus. I’d never do anything to hurt Him! I ran into my bedroom, jumped beneath my blanket, and sobbed to Him, “I’m sorry.”

By the time I was eight, I no longer hid in my bed when I felt guilt. I ignored it. I didn’t know denial of sin was the same as denial of Jesus.

Later that spring, an evangelist spoke at our church. He asked, “If Jesus came to your house, would you invite Him in?”

I was frightened by that thought. I knew I lied to my parents, sometimes hated my sister, and hid toys under the bed when they belonged in the toy box. I wouldn’t want Jesus to visit me. The next Sunday the evangelist offered us a way to welcome Jesus: We could sing, “Into my heart, come into my heart, Lord Jesus . . .”

I sang the song and meant it. But only for a while.

One evening during my second year in middle school, I devoured a large pepperoni pizza. By 2:00 A.M. my overly full stomach rumbled and ached. I prayed, “Jesus, I’ll follow You if You will just keep me from throwing up.” Minutes later I felt a peace flow over me and my roiling stomach quieted. Thankful, I tried—really tried—to keep my end of the bargain in the weeks that followed, but my heart had not changed, and I forgot my commitment once again.

What I lacked in constancy I made up for in service. I attended church every week. I taught Bible classes and helped the youth director during my summer breaks from college. But when it came to making a formal declaration of faith, I stalled. I knew that any decision I made must be one of total surrender; I had to be willing to change.

After college I found a job as a kindergarten teacher in southern California. I no longer attended church, preferring to fill my life with a boyfriend, long hours in my classroom, weekend visits with my family, or trips to the coast. During that time, I joined a painters’ guild and entered art shows, fulfilling a childhood dream of becoming an artist. Outwardly, I seemed to be prospering, but inwardly I was lonely, fearful, and insecure.

During my third year of teaching, a fellow teacher mentioned that her daughter planned to attend an evangelistic series in the next state. The event would be televised in our area. The term evangelistic meetings brought back long-forgotten memories of Vacation Bible School, church picnics, and sitting with my parents in the church pew.

I decided to tune in on a Friday evening. I set up my paints and turned on the television. The six-foot canvas titled “Homage to Hindu Thought” was almost complete. As I worked color glazes over the face of a Buddha, I listened to the music and the opening words of the evangelist’s address. The Holy Spirit caught my attention, and I laid down my brush.

I can’t remember what the preacher said that evening, but when he gave the invitation, an urgency charged me with purpose. “Choose now!” I recalled the many times I had refused to put my life, hopes, dreams, and future in the outstretched hands of Jesus. This might be my last chance.

I bowed my head, asked forgiveness for my sins, and acknowledged Jesus as the one and only Savior. I knew that this time I’d made a binding promise. With all my will I committed my life to a relationship with Christ.

I had no idea what wonderful plans God had for me. Nine months later I flew to Japan to teach in an elementary school on a navy base. There I met Rich, my future husband.

God has blessed our marriage with three children and impressed me to leave my teaching career and become a full-time mother and homemaker.

Writing for publication is another opportunity I would never have imagined. God helped me, a poor speller, to write clear sentences and to encourage others through my published articles.

I will be forever grateful Jesus kept calling me. I have never regretted the evening I gave Him my heart.

Nancy Maffeo writes from Gig Harbor, Washington.

I Finally Gave My Heart

by Nancy Maffeo
From the May 2006 Signs