"Mary, it's time for Church!" My mother's voice came up the stairs.
"Can't I stay at home? I have a headache."
"No; you're coming along. Father and I have already discussed it. You've missed three weeks already for that excuse. Get down here, now."
"But mother..." I started.
I sighed. I guess I used that excuse too often. I didn't really have a headache, and I actually never had had one. Maybe Mother figured that out. I just didn't want to go to Church.
Why, you ask? I just didn't feel like I had enough faith, enough love. And I didn't really know whether I even believed in God, or not. But right then I figured I had no choice.
I went reluctantly down the stairs and followed my parents and brother out to the waiting car.
"What's wrong, Mary?" James asked me, as I buckled myself in.
"Nothing," I said with a little sigh.
He eyed me suspiciously. "I know better than that; something's bothering you. What is it?"
"I don't want to talk about it."
He sighed heavily and leaned back in his seat. "Whatever."
I felt bad, but I really didn't want to talk about it. He couldn't change my mind, anyway.
The liturgy really was very beautiful. I just didn't feel it in my heart, so why go? That was my opinion.
After Church, on the drive home, Father said to me, "Father John was telling me about a sort of summer camp he's holding. I think you need to go."
"I don't want to go to a summer camp," I protested.
"That's all the more reason why you should go. You're going."
James looked at me knowingly, and I glared at him. He may believe in God, and love Church. But I just don't know.
"You'll have a good time," He told me, ignoring the look.
"If you think so, you should go," I responded quickly.
"I can't get leave from work, or I would go with you."
Sigh. Best make the best of it. I won't get out of it.
Next week I found myself in Father John's big van with a group of nine other girls, and a bunch of other people from Church. I didn't know any of them, and I felt very out of place. I snuck back to the back of the van, away from all the others, hoping that nobody would try to talk to me.
But I was disappointed in this, because a young lady came to sit beside me, and it was painfully evident that she intended to have a talk with me, of all people.
"I'm Anna, Father John's niece."
"Okay," I said, trying to put away the conversation.
"What's your name?"
"That's such a pretty name! I often wish my parents had named me Mary, instead of Anna."
I just nodded.
"This is going to be so fun! I've always wanted to go to a camp."
"I wish I didn't have to go," I sighed, looking sadly out the window.
"Why? It'll be fun," She reminded me.
"For you, maybe. It's going to be so boring...tents, fires, marshmallows. That's all there ever is to a camp."
"Not this one. This is a different kind of camp than all the others you've heard about. You'll see."
I didn't really care, so I just looked back out of the window, shrugging my shoulders.
Half an hour of silence went by, and Anna exclaimed, "There's the camp!"
I looked where she was pointing. Horrified, I realized that it was worse than I had anticipated.
Log cabins with one open window and an open doorframe in each came into view. I could not share Anna's enthusiasm, and gloomily I thought of the bugs and bats that would be able to enter through those openings. A bear could just walk right in.
"This is going to be wonderful!" Anna exclaimed enthusiastically.
"Think of the bugs and bats, Anna. And, while you're at it, how do you feel about a nice cold to keep you in bed? That is, if the bears don't eat you before you can catch cold."
She looked at me blankly, plainly wondering how anyone could be so negatively minded. Then she burst out into a ringing laugh. "Don't be such a wet blanket, Mary! The bears will not eat us, we will not get sick in this weather, and who cares about a few bugs and bats? They can't spoil our fun."
"No. Who's afraid of bugs or bats?"
I didn't really want to admit that I was, so I ignored the question and climbed quickly out of the van, which had just come to a stop near the cabins.
I looked around in dismay, wondering how I would ever get through these next two weeks. Two weeks doesn't seem a long time when you're having fun, but this couldn't possibly be fun.
"All right, girls," Father John called out, clapping his hands together to get our attention. "You have ten minutes to choose your cabins. Limit two people per cabin only. Then report to the main building for our first day."
"Yes, Father," everyone said eagerly before rushing off, leaving me standing alone, wondering what to do.
"Let's share a cabin," Anna said, grabbing my arm.
"Whatever," I sighed. "One's just as good as another, to me."
Anna laughed. "You'll change your mind about the whole camp, before these two weeks are up."
I wasn't too sure about that, but I didn't want to hurt her feelings, so I just shrugged it off. I'd just have to try to live through it.
I followed Anna as she hunted out a cabin to her liking. The camp's only salvation in my eyes were the wind chimes which hung on one corner of each cabin.
I looked at my watch. "Anna, we have two minutes," I reminded her when she finally nodded her head in satisfaction.
"Okay. I think this one will do. Put your baggage on the bed.
I did as she told me, and followed her out the door. "It's a long way to the main building," I said.
"Three, two, one, run!" She was off like an arrow.
I ran to catch up, but it was like trying to race with the wind. She was already inside and calmly seated before I came up panting at the door - one minute late.
"Miss Mary?" Father John looked over his glasses at me as I stepped quietly in.
"I'm sorry, Father. I couldn't keep up."
"Next time, start earlier."
I cast a sideways glance at Anna, who looked, oh so sorry. But that didn't help me much.
"All right, let's start out with a short explanation of what this camp is about. These two weeks, each of you will be making for yourself a one hundred knot prayer rope. This camp is meant to teach you how to do that. We'll start out with a short prayer, asking for God's blessing on our work, and then we'll show you how to make the 'Angelic knot'."
Somehow, I just couldn't get myself into the mood everyone else seemed to be in. They all seemed so joyful at the prospect of the two week camp, and the making of one hundred knots. What could be so interesting in that? My mind would not focus, and my heart just wasn't in the prayer.
After Father John had finished the prayer, the class sang forty Lord Have Mercys, in which my mouth took part, though my heart was absent.
"Anna here is my main assistant," Father John said when prayer was over. "Together, we were able to find seven other ladies and gentlemen from Church to assist in the teaching, and other camp duties. We were also able to get most members of the choir here, to sing and chant while we are busy.
"First off, we need wool yarn. A darning needle for each, and a pair of scissors for each. Last, but certainly not least, prayer. Prayer is the key to making a prayer rope. As you are making a knot, pray the Jesus Prayer, and between knots, say a little prayer, asking God to bless the knot. All right, let's begin."
The choir began to chant, filling the air with a calm, restful spirit.
Anna sat beside me, guiding me step-by-step through the intricate process of making the knot. But I was concentrating so hard on the actual knot, and not praying. My knots didn't work.
"Pray," Anna said firmly, finally.
I stared at her, amazed. How could she possibly know?
As if reading my thoughts, she said, "Prayer is the key. Without prayer, if you are distracted, your knots won't work for you. Pray."
I tried harder after that, and managed to get along fairly well. But every time my mind wandered, I had to untie the knot. And without fail, Anna always reminded me, "Pray."
I was behind the others at the end of the day, but it hardly mattered to me. I knew I would have to stay up late to complete my day's work, but I also knew that I could. The prayer and the atmosphere were already beginning to work in me for better, and I was finally beginning to feel peace.
And that was only the beginning. Over the next several days, an even greater change began to work in me. I soon found that I wanted to make the prayer rope, and I found myself wanting to pray. The camp no longer seemed unbearable, and I began to enjoy myself, and to have as much fun as anyone else.
And that's how One Hundred Knots of Prayer changed my heart.
I wrote this for a Summer writing contest a year or two ago, on Wattpad. Just thought I'd share it here for you all to read.