September is ITP Awareness Month

While recently chatting with a friend, I mentioned that our son, Mike, has ITP. My friend looked at me as if I had just spoke in a foreign language.

“ITP, what in the world is that?”

ITP is the abbreviation for idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, which is a rare bleeding disorder characterized by a low amount of platelets in the blood. Our platelets are needed for clotting of the blood. ITP is an autoimmune disease the can result in the destruction of platelets. People with ITP often bruise easily and/or bleed easily. There is not one specific cause of this disease.

We first found out about this condition when our Mike was in his late teens. He started with what looked like a rash on his body and extreme fatigue. No amount of rest and hydrating seemed to help. He went to the doctor and they sent him to the hospital. That was very scary to our son and to us, because we had no idea about ITP.

The hospital stay and i.v. treatments finished and he still had low platelets. A medical oncologist saw him and prescribed a regimen of Rituxan. Even though Mike didn’t have cancer, Rituxan is sometimes used for treatment of ITP. Some cases of ITP are so severe that the spleen has to be removed. We are thankful for the doctors that helped Mike.
Mike went to the hospital weekly and received the i.v. treatments. He finally felt a bit better.

Platelet counts have to be monitored and any sign of bruising, petechiae(tiny red dots on the skin) and extreme fatigue mean there could be a low count. When the platelets are low, even shaving can be a problem, as any cut can cause excessive, dangerous bleeding.

Mike is feeling well now and we are thankful to God. But, Mike has to be alert to any symptoms of ITP.

September is ITP Awareness month. Purple is the designated color to wear to support people with ITP.  There are still many people who have never heard of this condition. Also, there are more people with this condition than we ever knew.

So, if anyone tells you that they or someone they know has “ITP”, you will know what they are talking about.

melissahendersonMelissa Henderson lives in Mechanicsville, VA. She was born in Hampton and has lived in various cities in VA. She and her husband, Alan, have been married for over 37 years and have one son(Mike) who is married to daughter-in-love(Christine). Melissa was taught the love of reading and writing at an early age, from her parents. She is now working on her first inspirational fiction novel. Her passions are volunteering, Bible Studies and reading and writing.

September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month

One thing I love about God is that He can use all things for good. It seems like a platitude at times, but when you’ve been in a situation where bad has happened and you’ve seen firsthand the good that comes from it…you can’t help but praise Him.

When I was pregnant with my youngest son, I was overjoyed with happiness. I couldn’t wait to see how he would look. What his personality would be like. But then I had an invent…a “threatened miscarriage” is what the doctor termed it.

I tell you blood is never a welcome sight when you’re pregnant. But through tears and prayers my little one was born a couple of weeks before his due date. 10 fingers. 10 toes. Beautiful and healthy.

That is until our pediatrician called to inform us he has hemoglobin SC, a milder version of sickle cell. I felt punched in the gut. Although I always knew I had sickle cell trait, I failed to realize my husband had the hemoglobin c trait.

Nevertheless, I was intent on not worrying. To cross the bridge if we ever had to deal with sickle cell complications. After all, the doctor said it was a milder version.

My little one is 6 now and has a nice sized medical folder of sickle cell complications. At 21 months, he had his first spleen sequestration (red blood cells get trapped, spleen swells). He was in a tremendous amount of pain. Was given morphine and a blood transfusion. All before he turned 2. This happened on Mother’s Day and he left the ICU 4 days later.

Fast forward to the winter he was two. He visited the ER every month for a pain crisis in his leg. We’ve also had overnight stays to monitor his breathing (trying to prevent acute chest syndrome). Swelling in his arm, which was accompanied by pain crisis in arm. And a few months ago for the removal of his spleen.

It reminds me of the Scripture:

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” – 2 Corinthians 2:3-4.

That’s the good that comes from his disease. It’s made me more compassionate to others. I no longer assume everyone has it easy, but remind myself that they may be going through their own trials. And for those who are worried over their children’s health…I’m able to offer comfort. The same comfort that has seen me through ER visits, hospital stays, and watching my son in pain.

Better yet, my son believes that God listens to his prayers. He’s quick to pray for healing until it happens. He doesn’t question the timing, simply continues to pray until the hurt goes away.

Have you gone through a trial that has allowed you to offer comfort to others?

*If you wish to find out more about sickle cell, hop on over to SCDAA’s site 101/


Toni Shiloh is a wife, mom, and Christian fiction writer. Before pursuing her dream as a writer,
Toni served in the United States Air Force. It was there she met her husband. After countless moves, they ended up in Virginia, where they are raising their two boys.

When she’s not typing in imagination land, Toni enjoys reading, playing video games, making jewelry, and spending time with
her family.

Infertility Is Not A Curse by Megan Lee

When my husband and I struggled with infertility, I clung to Jeremiah 29:11 like a lifeline. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I was sure that part of the Lord’s plan for me and my husband was to give us children. After all, the Bible says that God wants to give us the desires of our heart; it also says that children are a blessing. We were asking for something good and of the Lord, so it seemed fair to assume God would answer with a resounding “yes!”

After the first miscarriage, family and friends assured me this was common and no big deal. “Nearly every woman has at least one miscarriage, especially after thirty.” When a second pregnancy also ended in a pregnancy, well-meaning friends and family told us, “It will happen. Just relax and don’t think about it. Lots of people have two miscarriages followed by two healthy babies.”

Time passed and no more pregnancies occurred, which drove us to seek medical help. Assisted reproduction gave us three more pregnancies and three more miscarriages along with a lot of heartache and anger. I was angry at all those people who told me(and in some cases were still telling me) that everything would be fine. It wasn’t fine and would never be fine again as far as I was concerned. More than anything, I was angry at God. How could He deny me the one thing I was created to do? Wasn’t His plan
supposed to be for my welfare and not for my calamity? In my mind, infertility was calamity. It meant I was broken and inferior. Surely I was being punished for something.

Six years of praying, crying, and losing took a toll on our emotions and on our marriage. I couldn’t bear to see pregnant women; I hated going to church where every Sunday I had to witness women with their children lined up behind them like ducklings. We left Bible studies because members were constantly pregnant and having children. Emotionally, I was at the lowest point of my life. I couldn’t pray anymore and God seemed like a distant entity withholding all things good.

One day my husband said to me, “Let’s do something we couldn’t do if we had children. You keep saying you want to go to England, so let’s go.” And we did. That summer, we took two weeks and we traveled around England, Scotland, and Wales. And something inside me shifted.

Miraculously, from the moment the plane lifted from the tarmac, I stopped thinking about having children. And I never looked back. It was as though God transported us through an invisible heart-changing machine that erased all of my bitterness, anger, and envy. I no longer stood before God with clenched fists. I knelt before Him with open hands. “Forgive my sense of entitlement; forgive my idolatry. You are God. I am your servant. Whatever your plans are for me, I know they are for my welfare and not for my calamity.”

When I humbled myself and laid down the shattered pieces of my desires before Him, God reached down and swept them away along with my tears. He had not been withholding His blessings from us. He simply had different blessings in mind. They were blessings that didn’t involve children, but that no longer mattered. God miraculously removed that desire from our hearts and gave us new ones.

Over the past three years, He has shown us that our lives need not be filled with children in order to have great meaning and purpose. As a result of walking through infertility together, my husband and I have grown closer to each other, and more importantly, we’ve grown closer to Him. It might seem like our faith should have broken; instead, it increased. As I let go of the idol I had clutched so tightly, my depression lifted, my productivity and creativity increased, and blessings upon our life began to flow.

We are now several years removed from that dark time. Looking back on it I harbor many regrets, and sometimes I wish things had gone differently, but ultimately, I know that God has his fingerprints all over our struggle with infertility (which was really a struggle to believe Him). Sometimes God says yes; sometimes He says later; and sometimes He says no. Even when He says no, it’s still for our welfare. In our case, God’s no reminded us that He is sovereign, the God from whom all blessings flow, and the redeemer of our hearts and lives.

Infertility is not necessarily a curse.


Megan Whitson Lee grew up in Kingsport, Tennessee, before moving to Northern Virginia at the age of thirteen. She studied music and vocal performance and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music before hearing ancestral voices calling her to England. In London, Megan interned as a literary assistant for Soho Theatre Company and worked odd jobs through a temp agency before returning to America where she received a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from George Mason University. Her self-published novel, All That is Right and Holy won second place in the 2009 Christian Choice Book Awards.

Megan now teaches high school English in Fairfax County where she lives with her husband, retired racing greyhound (Chase) and rescued Italian greyhound (Trinity).

The Impact of Child Abuse on the Brain, by Heather Gray

brain-951847_640Children who suffer violence are impacted physically, emotionally, and psychologically. That makes sense, right?

They’re also affected physiologically, though. Everybody’s heard of Fight or Flight Response, right? When a person is faced with something they perceive as a threat, hormones are released into the system and signals start bouncing around the brain
telling the person to flee the situation or to fight the enemy.

So what happens when, during the formative years of a child’s life, the brain is constantly flooded with these hormones and signals because the child is living every single day in a constant state of the Fight or Flight?

The physiology of their brain is altered, and no amount of counseling can undo that damage. I don’t want to diminish the role of counseling, please understand that. Counseling, among other things, helps people learn to cope, to change their behavior, and to move forward. It can’t, however, go back in time and change the chemical firestorm that happens in a developing brain when a child is abused.

The amygdala is the part of the brain that controls the Fight or Flight Response. When a threat is perceived, it sends the signal to the prefrontal cortex that tells it to act. The hippocampus is the voice of reason, though, that makes sure the response is appropriate. If I wake from a nightmare where I’m being chased by an ax murderer, my amygdala is screaming at my prefrontal cortex to run, but my hippocampus is coming along and saying, “No, no. It’s just a dream. Everything’s okay.”

People who have suffered childhood abuse, though, have a weakened relationship between their hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. This means that the voice of reason is often absent when they react to stimuli. Their reaction – be it fight or flight – can often be disproportionate to the situation at hand because the message from the hippocampus simply isn’t getting through. We might say they have a short fuse and are prone to outbursts of anger or overreaction, but regardless of the label we put
on it, the problem isn’t entirely within their control.

As parents, we often despair of ever seeing our hard work pay off. When our child is three years old and having an all-out tantrum on the floor of the grocery store, we wonder where we went wrong and if our child will ever learn. We try to be encouraging, consistent, loving, and firm with our kids, but it can be a decade or more before we see our positive actions pay off.

It can take decades to realize the full impact of childhood abuse, too. Whether that abuse comes in the form of neglect, emotional assault, or physical abuse – the victim may be well into adulthood before they have a solid understanding of just how deeply their childhood has shaped them. In some cases, thanks to denial and compartmentalization, victims may never fully realize it.

What can be done?

Hopefully, in understanding the long-term effects of child abuse on its victims, we will all be motivated to take action.

April is Childhood Abuse Awareness month. In my own small way, I want to help make you more aware of the long-term detrimental effects abuse has on its young victims. In 2013 alone, nearly 700,000 children in America were abused.

What can you do to help? If you see abuse, report it. That’s the easy answer.

For every easy answer, there’s a hard one, though. What else can you do? Mentor someone. Is there a family in your church or life that seems to be struggling? Not all parents have good role models. So step up and be one. Offer support and encouragement to parents who look like they’re reaching the breaking point. Or better yet, offer support an encouragement before they ever
get that far. Be an example of love and patience. Be a listening ear. If you can, give them a break now and then by taking the kids. Offer to help in small ways, but above all, let them know that you care. Invest in the lives of families, and you’ll be doing more than you realize to help prevent the furtherance of child abuse in America.




Abused Children May Get Unique Form of PTSD

heatherHeather loves coffee, God, her family, and laughter – not necessarily in that order!  She writes approachable characters who, through the highs and lows of life, find a way to love God, embrace each day, and laugh out loud right along with her.  And, yeah, her books almost always have someone who’s a coffee addict.  Some things just can’t be helped.

Child Abuse – Repression – April’s Rebirth (Child Abuse Prevention Month) by Merita Atherly Engen

tulips-65305_1920It’s April and spring arrives in earnest. Rain showers and warm breezes resurrect the daffodils. Lambs frolic like innocent children. Idyllic April when hope is reborn. An ideal month for Child Abuse Prevention.

It may have been later than April, but if my heart had given me permission, I would have remembered the day my innocence was snatched. My older sister and I giggled happily under flowering bushes near our farmhouse. I was five. She was eight.

Young cousins, having walked the dusty lane through orchards, ran up and urged, “Let’s play.” The four of us skipped together toward the barn. If my heart had given me permission, I would have remembered my uncle’s deep voice adding to my excitement, “Come, let’s play in the barn.”

I would have remembered my sister’s wrist gripped by fingers, giant and grungy, and her feet tripping to keep up with long legs that strode to the back of the barn. Meanwhile, I hopped about pleading, “Me too! Me too! I want to play too.”

“No, you wait. Stay here outside the barn, and don’t go back to the house,” my uncle, elder in our church, spoke with calm authority.

If my heart had not told my mind to forget, I would have remembered waiting in expectant, obedient trust, hot and wondering that there was not a sound from within. But it was years before my heart gave my mind permission to remember. Right then, I waited outside that barn with my chin resting on my knees and my eyes on the house. Inside, my mother tended my baby brother. Afternoon shadows lengthened. Soft footsteps came through silken grass. At last!

My sister’s eyes were wet. Her play was over. In an instant, I knew it had not been play.

In fact, I knew it wasn’t the first time. I had had my own experiences that my heart didn’t let me remember. Our silent walk from the barn enforced what had just happened must be ignored. It must never to be mentioned.

A decade plus later, I was a confused young woman who needed a clear mind to make decisions about true love. My heart did not know how. Childhood abuse had repressed its ability to own its truth. Denial was the safest place to stay. It lived there for years aided by a culture where no one spoke the word abuse.

There came a day, in my fifties, when spring arrived and gave my heart permission to remember. April came with healing and rebirth. If only it had come sooner.

Today, we adults have the capacity to make sure spring comes early to an abused child’s life. It takes awareness, courage, and knowledge. It takes following our gut. The abuse may be sexual, physical, or emotional, but, unless you or I intervene, abuse is most often a secret held deep in a little one’s heart.

Repression and suppression may seem like lesser consequences of child abuse, and indeed, they are survival tools, but there is a significant toll to pay for living a life of denial. Wounds untended and pain unrecognized cannot be healed.

“Children are resilient,” writes the Joyful Heart Foundation, “and being able to discuss and guide our children through a recovery process is crucial to their success. It is often the first step towards healing. In most cases, once their safety is assured, children can overcome the effects of trauma through professional counseling or other supportive interventions.”

What does it take for an abused child or an adult survivor of childhood abuse to grow like the daffodils and push towards the light? Sometimes it’s an event. With my sister, it was our mother’s death. With me, it was the experience of God’s unconditional love and my sister’s courage to face her pain and get help.

Sometimes a word of understanding will unlock the pain. Sometimes an act of kindness will open a heart. Most times, especially with the young, it is direct, specific, non-shaming questions.

It is always intervention.

It is April’s sun and showers.

Here are resources to help you talk to children, recognize warning signs, and educate yourself:

Joyful Heart Foundation

Department of Justice 

Stop It Now

RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network)

RitaMerita Atherly Engen’s passion is discovering God. Her pleasure is knowing others are blessed when she shares. You can find her online at