Noel Stavola

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I grew up in Medford in a home that had a fair amount of fear and stress. When I was 18 years old, I did not feel welcome in my home, and I left. I was dating Frank at the time. Three months into our relationship, we got engaged. Everybody thought I was too young, but I knew Frank was the one for me. We were in love. We initially lived with his parents, and our life seemed pretty good for a while.

We started a business when our daughter was young. I worked part-time for Frank in the business. That is the point where my struggle with drinking began. I hadn’t dealt with hurts in my childhood and didn’t have God in my life. I tried to keep pressing on through life in my own strength. As the years passed, the business grew, my daughter got older, and I began to lose sight of who I was and why I was here. There was a sense of loneliness in me. All I ever wanted was to have a happy family and be the best mother to my child. I became anxious and relied on alcohol to calm me down before social gatherings and to feel comfortable in my own skin. Ironically, it was something I said I would never do or want in my life. I was the designated driver in years past and hadn’t felt the bondage of alcohol prior to this. Depression set in, along with struggles with self-worth. The drinking momentarily numbed that, but it took over my life and was truly a poison. I hid it as long as I could. It quickly escalated. It became obvious I had a problem.

The excessive drinking led to problems in my marriage. I was also losing respect from my daughter whom I cherished dearly and never wanted to hurt. It became unbearable. I found myself thinking that I just didn’t want to live anymore.

Eventually one night, I tried to drink myself to death in hopes that I’d fall asleep and never wake up. This is still a very painful memory to think about and share. When I woke up after binging, my mother drove me to the hospital. Once there, I was hooked to a lot of machines and monitors. My blood alcohol level was so high the doctors were amazed that I was still alive. Little did I know God had another plan for my life.

I woke up in the middle of the night and was very angry that I was alive. Moments later, I had an experience that forever changed the trajectory of my life. I heard a voice, yet when I looked around, no one was there. There was a palpable, powerful presence in the dark hospital room. I actually saw a figure. It began talking to me. It was unmistakable, and I knew I was in the holy presence of God or one of His angels. I heard a voice repeatedly say, “Go to church. Go to church”! In that moment, I was overcome by His presence and fully surrendered.

I was discharged after five days and asked Frank if could I return home. Thankfully, he offered me grace, and we began a new journey together. When I got home, I asked him to go to church with me, and he agreed. Our walk with the Lord was beginning. We attended FAC the following Sunday and have been coming ever since!

Pastor Marty’s messages were life-changing for both of us. Each week, I’d return to church and quietly soak in the Word. It was if I could hear God’s voice speaking to me through Pastor Marty. Philippians 4:13 became a verse I grew to love and rely upon: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” During those early days of recovery, I needed strength to change habits, join support groups, and remove myself from situations that tempted me to drink.

Eventually, we believed FAC was the right place for us and wanted to get more involved. We chose Alpha as our first group to join, and it was amazing! We really loved Alpha and made true friendships there. At Alpha, we had meaningful conversations and would then break up into small groups for discussion and prayer. It was intimidating at first. I was a little afraid to pray out loud, and I often passed the baton indicating that I didn’t want to pray. I’ve come a long way since that time. I’ve definitely grown more comfortable praying with others.

When Alpha was over, I knew God had more for me. During services, I’d pray and ask God to show me where I could help. The monthly newsletter, “The Connection,” had so many opportunities. I wanted to get more involved with the church, all the while continuing on my own healing journey. There are countless ways to plug in and serve in our church. The Fresh Hope ministry for single moms piqued my interest. The Care Center and the Food Pantry intrigued me as well. When I was growing up, there were times when there was very little food in the house. From time to time, we could have leaned on a place like this.

Noel and her husband, Frank, got baptised during the summer of 2017.

Ultimately, I was clearly led to plug into the Care Center. I’ve been volunteering there for three years. It’s such a special place. It is where my heart is. We’re able to help others and at the same time work with other beautiful women with the same heart for God. Only God could have placed me there.

My life was spared. I am so thankful to be able to live it in a way that glorifies God and blesses others. What we have now is so wonderful. Yes, there are trials, but God has dramatically changed how Frank and I live and love.

Here is a link of my personal [ testimony on video ], created by the God@Work video team. The video was shown for FAC’s Christmas Eve services.

A Personal Post-video Update

It was really difficult to be vulnerable, especially in the church located in the town where I had grown up. I had moments of fear of offending my family. I had to revisit memories I’d pushed away. I’m thankful I surrendered and followed God’s prompting, despite it being difficult. I got to walk through it with Jesus and the love of my husband and faithful friends.

If I could leave you with something, it would be to talk to someone about the hidden wounds in your life. Suppression leads to destruction if we don’t take a leap of faith and share our hurts with God and those who love us. Open your heart to Jesus’s healing and goodness. It takes trust and courage, but there’s unspeakable, beautiful joy in the face of surrender. •