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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Uncles/Aunts (04/17/08)

TITLE: Three Brothers, Three Branches
By Angela M. Baker-Bridge
04/23/08


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From one seed, a tree grows. Eventually, branches develop, each unique in size, character, strength, and productivity.

Three particular branches on my family tree profoundly influenced me, my mother’s brothers. When I was born, they were adolescents living next door to us. They took me on walks, picnics, to the ice cream shop, parades, and for rides in their cars. How many women drive to Florida in a convertible with two hot-looking guys? Okay, I was four years old, my grandfather was with us, and we went to visit my great-grandparents. The point is, I was their princess; they were my knights in shining armor. Under their shade, I grew, showered with attention, gifts, and love. I watched, gleaned, learned.

As they grew, the differences between Mom’s brothers became more apparent. Raised by a missionary mother, they didn’t all embrace her faith. Differing beliefs affected their decisions, molded their personalities, and dictated their futures. They remained devoted to me while their strong personalities clashed.

The family tree began showing signs of wear with the storms of adversity; each branch grew in its own way. Too young to understand what was happening, or why my beloved uncles weren’t always there, I ached for the past when we were together daily. Answers given to my pleas for information were generic or fabrications. Still, their absence never lessened my loving devotion to my childhood heroes.

Not until I became an adult did I learn the truth of those tumultuous years. In time, I also witnessed the results of their choices. Three brothers, three branches of our family tree; none manifested similar markings or offshoots. At times, I cannot believe we’re related, though glad we are.

My youngest uncle was vibrantly loveable. Immaturity, excuses, and avoiding God’s Son, twisted his branch away from responsibility, permanently stunting his growth.* Pursuing pleasure and get-rich-quick schemes, he found work distasteful. After a military tour, he married without family approval. Children soon followed. For a time, I wasn’t permitted to see him. His family suffered from his lack of productivity, provision, and protection. He refused to guard his health or future. His wife died young, he lost their home. Angry with God, consumed with sorrow, his legs needed amputating. Cut in his prime, his offshoots became orphans. Trying to restore their shattered branch, none inherited his aversion toward work, only his legacy of spiritual deprivation, angry toward God. His branch, left in the shadows, suffocates under moss, as do I when I think of him.

Another uncle’s shadow rarely crossed the church’s threshold or attended family functions. He lived dangerously, pushed the law, suffering the consequences. He served for several years, though not in the military. Work and success became his obsession, preoccupying his thoughts, conversations, energy, and time. He became hard, distant. Slowly he lost his influence on others. Eventually he lost his business, health, wife, and children. Education couldn’t straighten his splintered offshoots; several repeated their father’s mistakes. The consequences are evident. Attempts to mend his fractured branch have disappointed. His refusal to accept nourishment from the Son of God or shelter his offshoots from sin produced bruised fruit, disinterested in spiritual matters. Regret consumes my uncle, alone, he weeps, yet remains malnourished, still avoiding the Son, though asking for prayer.** I barely know him. Can his branch survive? I pray so.

Only one uncle followed God’s Son, pursued faith, and grew in character. He proudly joined the Army during war. His absence left me heart-broken. After returning, he worked hard to become self-employed, never allowing business to come before God or family. Successfully he provided for his wife and children. Protecting the family roots’ integrity was crucial to him. Until his parents died, he remained dedicated. Afterward, he faithfully maintained their graves, never filling the hole in his heart. Through numerous ministries, he served his church well. Family, friends, church members, neighbors, and employees sought his counsel, encouragement, friendship, and prayer. He generously gave time, money, and love. In one shocking moment, death snatched him, causing an unbearable loss for me. His offshoots continue to reap the blessings of his faithfulness and fruit.*** By feeding them spiritually, he left them sturdy, able to withstand life. He was our strongest branch, influencing me the most.

Three brothers, three branches, each affected those beneath them on the family tree. They gave me precious memories and valuable lessons. Thinking of them, I laugh, cry, count my blessing, and labor to nourish my branch and offshoots.

________________________________

*“If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers;” John 15:6 (NIV)

**“…For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.” Romans 11:20-21 (NIV)

***"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit;” John 15:5 (NIV)


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This article has been read 702 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Debbie Wistrom04/24/08
You have put so much into this. I fell for your mc, but also know she is blessed. Wonderful work here. Keep writing, I feel there is much more to these stories.
Sara Harricharan 04/24/08
There is so much here! I can tell this took some time and something to write it all. I can feel the emotion in it and the differences between them. great job. ^_^
Tessy Fuller04/29/08
I really liked how you laid this out so to speak, the three brothers, the three branches. I liked how you connected it to the family tree, showing that you are creating a legacy, leaving something behind, whether it be good or bad.
Dee Yoder 04/30/08
What a strong commentary on the difference Christ can make in a life. Your examples each had that touch of bittersweet memory and pain, but for different reasons. This is quite a tender story.
Jan Ackerson 04/30/08
Very good, Angela! You had a great hook, and were able to maintain the tree metaphor throughout, and very beautifully.
Joy Faire Stewart04/30/08
So much emotion, this must have been difficult. Very thoughtful writing.
Carole Robishaw 04/30/08
Really good job, relates well to the story of the seeds sown: those in the weeds, on the path, or in the prepared ground. I enjoyed it.
Joanne Sher 04/30/08
This is absolutely masterful, rich in imagery and emotion, and perfect for the topic. Angel, I think this is the best thing you've written that I can recall. Marvelous.
Loren T. Lowery04/30/08
Wow, what an amazing testimony. It all rings so true. In college I knew many PK's (preacher's kids) and almost everyone rebelled in one way or another. I lost track of them, but I would like to think most found their way back to God, as did your third uncle. How blessed you are to have lived, learned and grown for a while "under their shadowing care."
Beth LaBuff 04/30/08
Beautiful writing Angela. I love the analysis lesson you've learned from each lesson. You were able to relay the heartache that resulted from the actions of some and the joy and blessing from the other. This is very, very good!
Pam Carlson-Hetland04/30/08
Absolutely excellent. I enjoyed every bit of this, the stories, the comparison, the final outcomes. Written with great skill and wisdom. Great job!
Joshua Janoski04/30/08
What a deep and rich story. I am sure this consumed much thought, time, and energy to write. I loved the branch comparisons.

This has to be my favorite piece from you so far, Angela. Your writing ability really shines in this, and regardless of whether you rank or not, this is one piece I would be proud to have written if I were you.
Catrina Bradley 04/30/08
Oh, Naye, I have tears! Beautiful writing. You created such a melancholy mood for this tale of your family tree. I gasped at the death of your Uncle, and mourn for you. I was captivated by all of the comparisons to a tree - masterful writing! You did well with your 750 words - it doesn't feel "crammed". :D

R.I.: You designated the first uncle as the youngest, I'd like to see the others designated also - eldest, middle - for consistency. I want to know how old you were when your uncles left. You just say "too young." I love the opening, but think the ending could be a bit stronger. I like what you say, but you can say it better. :D

I'm so glad you entered this piece - thank you!

Catrina Bradley 04/30/08
Oops, I mean ANGELA!!!! Sorry! [blushes]
Beth LaBuff 05/01/08
Angela -- Congrats on your 1st place with this!!!
Janice Cartwright05/01/08
This gripped my heart. We love our family "tree" so much and it pains us almost more than can be expressed to see such suffering and waste. Yet it is also enlightening to us to witness close to home the vast difference Jesus can make in a life, a family. You wrote this with great skill and passion and it is well-deserving of that lovely ribbon at the top. Congratulations! :)
Sheri Gordon05/01/08
Congratulations on your 1st place. The tree metaphor is done very, very well. Nice job with the topic.
Joshua Janoski05/01/08
So deserving of a 1st place win. Like I said previously, this has to be one of your best. This is a masterpiece.
Myrna Noyes05/01/08
Angela, I must add my CONGRATULATIONS on your well-deserved win for this insightful, compassionately-written piece! Wonderful, consistent "tree" analogy throughout! Very well-written! :)
Mandy White05/01/08
Congratulations on a well deserved first place win! It's evident that you put a lot of care into this. Beautiful job.
Karen Wilber 05/01/08
This is a terrific metaphor--reminding me of the parable of the sower. You've done a wonderful job of linking the metaphor with their lives and with scripture. Many lessons here--not preachy--just well told. Congrats on 1st place.