I grew up in Temperance, Michigan, a tiny town known best for the barbershops and ice cream parlors down Lewis Avenue and their proximity to Ollie’s Bargain Outlet. I’m not really sure what the most interesting thing about my town is, but that was always an interview question my mom practiced with me as I learned the skill for baton twirling pageants.
Interview judges were notorious for asking what activities we would do if the judge wanted to visit my hometown. Aside from competitions hosted at the high school, never once has a judge come and visited me. I wonder why they wanted to know the answer to that question so much. I suppose, just to get to know who I am. Who am I?
Lauren Anne. A national and world champion baton twirler. A culinary school dropout. A Doctor of Nursing Practice, Family Nurse Practitioner, and Master Certified Health Coach. And a self-labeled professional screenwriter when writing my first book and hoping for one chance in Hollywood.
I played the flute growing up and I still do from time to time. My favorite memories are of the youth pastor at church whistling the background melody I would supply during the chorus of “Because We Believe.” I never really believed the things we sang about. Truthfully, I never understood what the lyrics meant enough to make the choice to believe. There’s no blame to be assigned. But thinking back, I sure could carry the tune and smile and enjoy the entire show.
When I graduated high school, my one super dream was to be the feature baton twirler for an awesome college marching band. My freshman year in college, the Toledo Rockets football team won the Mid-American Conference championship on my birthday. I was in white and gold, living my dream.
Near the start of my sophomore year, I was targeted by members of a religious cult. There are so many opinions on what defines a cult or a sect. I have no interest in writing a memoir simply to satisfy curiosity about my experience in the cult. This book is not a memoir because I am not the star of the show (Jesus is), and the story I lived is just a single version of a multitude that likely exist in this world.
Nevertheless, it is true that I experienced substantial psychological abuse and neglect. Fortunately, I did not experience sexual abuse, nor was there intimacy. Coercive control is real and coercive control deeply affected my mind, my emotions, and my actions. All I had ever wanted was to know God. And in the experience of religious freedom, I lost both my family and my identity. This was the last thing I ever wanted.
The years following my physical freedom were heart wrenching as I learned the depths of my brokenness. When I left the cult, I was not free. Perpetual brain fog kept me from considering, much less comprehending the simplest of scriptures. I was completely emotionless without a fleeting sweep of sentiment in my heart. At the same time, I wanted to understand the Bible. And I certainly wanted to be human.
The most tragic part from my experience was the intellectual indoctrination of the blasphemous and profane nonsense that Jesus Christ is not God. The depth of human chatter on this topic had me ensnarled in every false problem and analytical reasoning and doctrinal difficulty imaginable. It was like someone had injected heretical ink into every crevice of my brain.
Just as children raised in a Christian home must eventually decide their faith for themselves, my reality was similar but opposite. I was terrified I might live the rest of my life saying “no” to God because humans had devastated my mental capacity for truth.
This was my trauma aftermath. This was my new set of insurmountable challenges. This, as I would come to realize, was my climactic context for awe-inspiring, Christ-exalting, miraculous posttraumatic growth.
Let me speak the truth. Jesus Christ is God. He is my Lord and my Savior. He lives, and He is love. I want you to know Him or know Him more. He is the only reason I am brave enough to share my story with you.
 Song by Integrity Songwriters
 The term and theory of “posttraumatic growth” (PTG) was formally introduced in the mid-1990s by psychologists and researchers Lawrence Tedeschi and Richard Calhoun.