Today I am thankful for our incredible church, First Baptist Church of Alexandria, VA.
I started attending FBCA when I was single and Joe was not yet in the picture. I had been living here for close to a year and had visited several churches in the area. For the past 6 months I had been attending a church in Arlington and really tried to make it my church home. I went every Sunday morning and night, and even attended a young adult retreat that they had. Unfortunately, it just seemed that no matter how hard I tried to get involved it just wasn’t working. For some reason this church just wasn’t the right fit for me.
Around the time I decided to start looking for another church, I connected with a friend of a friend, Becky. Becky’s friend, Missy, and I had actually been roommates in Boston, so when I moved down here she suggested that I connect with her friend Becky. Becky and I went out to dinner one night and she graciously gave me a ride home. When she dropped me off at my apartment she said that one of her good friends, Holly, also lived in my apartment complex and that I should meet her. I’m not sure how it happened, but before I knew it I had become good friends with both Becky and Holly (as it turns out Beck is still one of my best friends and both Beck and Holly participated in our wedding).
One Sunday Holly was going to be singing a solo, so she asked me if I would come listen to her. Since I wasn’t too happy with the church I was attending, I figured I’d give it a shot. That afternoon the pastor personally called me to let me know that he was glad I came (by the way, that was the previous pastor, not the current pastor, Pastor Don). As a child who grew up in church and had a father on staff of a church, that was very impressive to me. I know he didn’t remember meeting me that morning, but I was impressed by the fact that he took time out of his day to just acknowledge that I had visited.
Shortly afterward I was invited to a cookout at Darla’s house and I met several others from the church. I was sold! From then on I started attending FBCA and shortly after joined as an official member. Within just a few weeks it felt like home and I knew that every Sunday when I arrived I would find someone…a friend, to sit with (that sounds stupid but when you’re single those little things mean a lot).
Several months after I started going to FBCA I met Joe. He was attending another church and was very happy there, however, when we got engaged and decided to have our wedding ceremony at FBCA, we decided to try out their Newly, Nearly Married Sunday school class (a class for people who are engaged or have been married for less than a year). We instantly loved it! The teachers not only taught valuable lessons on marriage, but they were also great people that we enjoyed being around. We also met a bunch of great people through the class and most of them remain our good friends. Sometime between the time Joe and I started dating and when we got engaged, the pastor left for another position. This put the church in a bit of flux. Although things were still going along as usual, no one really knew what the future held, so Joe and I decided that we would attend FBCA through our wedding and the Newly Nearly class (which is 1 year), then we would begin looking for a church as a couple.
To make a long story short, we never really started looking. We would talk about it, but just kept putting it off. When the current pastor, Pastor Don, arrived shortly after we got married, we knew that FBCA would remain our church home. I’ll never forget sitting in the pew one Sunday during the closing song (when people go to the front of the church and tell the pastor that they want to join or get baptized) and suddenly Joe just walked forward. We hadn’t talked about him officially joining, but he said that he had been thinking about it for awhile and really felt like this was the place we needed to be. Soon he joined the church softball team and I knew that was it…we weren’t going anywhere.
This post is already long, but it wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention our church family during Ella’s birth. That was when we knew that this was truly our family, and not just a bunch of people who got together on Sunday. Everyone rallied around us and lifted sweet Ella up in prayer constantly. They held a couple of specific prayer services for her, and people brought us a ton of food! People loaned my parents a car, loaned them a GPS to get around town, took up donations to help us pay for Ella’s medical needs not covered by insurance, and at the time my job was unstable and the church even offered to help pay our Cobra fee so we could keep our health insurance. My BFF, Jenni (who I met at church) made a CD to help raise money for Ella, and the softball team even got little pink ribbons with Ella’s name on them and pinned them to their uniforms. One couple even made up “Team Joella” shirts to wear to the softball games. We got phone calls, balloons, clothes, visits, cards, and the list goes on. More importantly, they still support us today. Even though she’s “out of the woods” and not nearly as critical as she was as an infant (although many EB parents will tell you that with this disease you’re never really out of the woods), we still meet people who say, “Oh, this is the precious baby that we’ve been praying for!” And I’ve mentioned how wonderful the preschool has been, so I won’t go back into that. Just know the preschool is outstanding!
All of this to say that our church is incredible and I am extremely thankful for each and every person there. The staff is amazing, the volunteers are amazing, the congregation is amazing…it’s all amazing!