Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Honoring Mom

Monday we celebrated the life of my mother, Helen Newhouse. My friend Josh Hayden shared a beautiful message that truly honored my mother. My brother Eric and Aunt Sharon shared wonderful memories. Below is what I said about Mom. You can read her obituary and watch a video of the service here:

Most of us are introduced to music by our parents. Once we move past lullabies and childrens’ songs, we learn the music our parents listen to. Our kids learned to appreciate Bruce Springsteen and Johnny Cash. They have each developed their own preferences over the years, but they also still listen to my music sometimes. 

Some of my early memories are of listening to Mom’s music in the 70s--which was mostly classic country and folk. One of my favorites was John Denver. He sang of sunshine and mountains and adventure and love. 

One of his early hits was “Back Home Again.” If I could sing, I’d sing it for you, but I can’t, so I’ll just read the lyrics from the last verse and chorus:

It's the sweetest thing I know of, just spending time with you

It's the little things that make a house a home

Like a fire softly burning and supper on the stove

It’s the light in your eyes that makes me warm

Hey, it's good to be back home again

Sometimes this old farm feels like a long lost friend

Yes, 'n, hey it's good to be back home again

Home. Home is more than a house. It’s love; safety, comfort. It’s history. It’s people. It’s family. Home is home not because of where it is, but who is there.

I was born in Nashville, and while I don’t remember living there, that’s where my roots are. That’s where Mom lived during her teenage years. That’s where my grandmother and great-grandmother and Aunt Sharon lived. It’s where we vacationed over the years. So even though I’m not often there these days, I’ve always had a sense of home when I’m there.

We moved to Virginia when I was a baby, and that’s always been my true home. 

I’ve moved around several times over the years, all over the country; but Virginia, specifically Dale City, has always been home. 

We moved into our home here in 1973. I’ve left and returned and left again several times over the last 40 years. But no matter where I was, or how long I was gone, that house has always been home. Because that’s where Mom was. 

Whatever happened in my life, when I succeeded or failed, when I was alone or scared or lost… I could always go home, and Mom was always there. 

I have a great family. I have faithful friends, I have wise mentors. But my mother was my hero. From the very beginning she fought for me, and for the rest of her life she was my teacher, supporter and advisor--every step of the way.

Mom was a single mother. She was 19, dating a man, and when she told him she was pregnant, he surprised her and told her he was engaged to someone else. He wanted her to have an abortion but she refused. 

Mom was alone, and this was the South in the 60’s. Her mother and step-father were not supportive. So Mom moved into a home for single pregnant women, and under pressure, decided to give me up for adoption. 

When I was born, Mom couldn’t do it. She had already signed papers to give me up, and battled for a week to reverse the agreement. But she did it. She got me back, and cared for me for the rest of her life. 

Mom lived with a friend for a while, then when I was six months old we moved from Nashville to Alexandria, Virginia, and lived with her brother, Larry, and his wife Judy. 

A few months later she met my father, Howard. Mom married him, 

and he adopted me.

Mom didn’t have the easiest childhood, and she did all she could to make life better for my brother and me. 

She was my den leader when I was in Cub Scouts. She was the team mother for my little league baseball team. She and Dad took us on vacations to Nashville, Atlanta and Virginia Beach. 

When I was 15, Mom and Dad split, and she was a single mother again. She went back to work full-time to provide for us.

Mom went to work for the  7-11 corporation as an entry level secretary. Over the years she worked her way up to Office Manager. 

She earned respect and responsibility. Years after retiring, people she worked with still reached out to her. 

When my parents split I had a lot of hurt and anger, but Mom was always there for me. She encouraged me when I did well; she was patient and forgiving when I screwed up.

When I joined the Army after high school, Mom wrote to me almost every day when I was in basic training. 

As I moved around the country, I never stayed gone too long--always making regular visits home, to Mom. 

Whether I was in Texas, or Washington state, Mom and Jerry came to visit often, and brought us home to visit them. 

Mom was a great mother. But she may have been an even better grandmother. She loved her grandchildren. When our boys were pre-school age Jamie went back to work. Mom drove down from Woodbridge to Stafford several days a week to take care of Brady and Cash. 

She loved her grandchildren and great-grandchildren--calling them, sending gifts, visiting wherever they were, and taking them on trips.  

Some of my favorite memories over the last 20 years were spending time at Mom and Jerry’s second home, their camper in Front Royal. 

We had wonderful times camping and eating and swimming and tubing on the Shenandoah River. 

Mom loved it when their trips to Washington allowed her and Jerry to watch the boys play baseball. They would come to practice, sometimes the only spectators, to watch the boys play.

She loved playing games and watching baseball and basketball on TV. And she loved cooking her family’s favorite foods--chicken-n-dumplings, deviled eggs, chocolate pie, banana pudding, peach cobbler. I loved those foods, because they always took me back home. 

Mom loved her whole family, but Sharon and Larry--her relationships with you were special--that’s why we always took trips to Nashville, Atlanta and Sanibel. For Mom, being in those places with you, that was home. 

Mom loved her family, her friends, her dogs. But most of all, she loved Jerry. 

Mom and Jerry were there for each other for almost 40 years. They talked and laughed and traveled. They camped. They watched the Nationals and Redskins, Kentucky and West VA basketball, NASCAR races, and Gunsmoke.

They spoiled their grandchildren together.

And they did what we all hope we do for the people we love--they brought out the best in each other.

Jerry—Mom saw how special you are, and she helped you and others see how special you are. You took good care of each other.

The last couple years have been a challenge as we walked through Mom’s illness together. But Mom was a warrior, never giving up, continuing to focus on the people around her rather than herself, and making the most of every day. 

And as much as I hurt and miss Mom, I’m grateful that my family and I got to come home a lot this past year, spending time with Mom and Jerry, playing games, looking at pictures, telling stories, reliving memories. 

And even though I miss her terribly, I find hope, in the belief that Mom is in a new home, a better home; and that one day we will be reunited there with her, in our new home. Because wherever Mom is, for me, that will always be home.

Sunday, December 06, 2020

What I'm Missing

December 2020.

The last ten months have been like something none of us would have imagined. I know we've all lost a lot. 

For me, the biggest loss is my kids' sports.

For the last 17 years, my greatest joy in life has been watching Ashley, Brady and Cash play soccer,  baseball, football and basketball.

With both boys playing multiple sports for the last eight years, most of my free time has been spent taking them to practices and games--coaching them in baseball, cheering them on in the other sports. 

I love watching them practice and play. I've tried to teach and coach and train my boys to work hard and be good teammates. I think it's had a good impact on them. But while I do it for them, I benefit just as much, as those times have brought me great joy. 

I almost always stay and watch them practice, rather than dropping them off. I enjoy watching them work and talking to other dads. Even more, I enjoy going to their games, cheering them on, celebrating with them when they win, and encouraging them when they lose. 

But that has all been put on hold. I know it has an impact on them, and on me. I feel that loss every day. The activity that brought me my greatest joy is gone, for now. I'm trying to do a better job of finding other activities to take the place of those that have been temporarily lost.

Grandma and Grandpa gave the boys an early Christmas present of new bikes; so we're trying to ride more. We enjoy hiking, so we're trying to do more of that. 

Both boys are taking hunter safety classes so we can start hunting; and in the spring, we'll do more fishing. I hope we can resume sports before long, but until then I'm going to find ways to keep us all active. 

Like all of us, I am mourning what is lost. And while it is healthy to grieve, it's not good to wallow in that grief. So I'm trying to look up, find positives in the midst of the difficulties, and work to find the joy that isn't coming so easily these days.

Friday, January 24, 2020

2019 In Review

As I get older, I realize more how each year is filled with significant events. 2019 was no exception. Two big highlights were trips home to Virginia. 

January was typical of most months in the Cullop family, as both boys were busy with sports--basketball and indoor soccer. I am proud of how hard Brady and Cash work and how much they accomplish. 

The big event in January was a five-day visit from Ashley. I had hoped she would move back to Washington when she graduated college last year, but she loved Portland and decided to stay there. It was great having her home for a few days.  

Cash playing for his school basketball team. Basketball is the sport in which he has the least experience, but he was a leader on his team and had a great season. 


The highlight in February was a solo trip home to Virginia, mainly to spend time with my brother Eric and be there for his baptism! We spent three days together talking, eating, walking, driving and had a wonderful time. We haven’t spent much time together since we both lived in Texas over 20 years ago. It was really special. 

Also had great time with Mom and Jerry, and some of my very best friends--Elise Bell, Mike Poff, the Jenkins family, and my college buddies (see pic below). 

Eric and his Pastor Sherry after his baptism. One of my all-time favorite days. 

Eric and I doing some sightseeing in Luray. 

Cracker Barrel with Mike Poff; a brother for 27 years!

Elise Bell; a dear sister for 33 years. We were in campus ministry together in the 80s, seminary in Texas in the 90s, served together in the same campus ministry in the 2000s. I’ve never known a truer friend. 

Dinner with Gordon and Heidi Jenkins and their son Matthew. Gordon and I have been brothers for 40 years; Heidi has been my sister for 34. I love them and their family!

One of my all-time favorite places to be--the Patriot Center (now Eagle Bank Arena) watching GMU basketball with these guys--Kenny Budd, me, Johnny Gallagher and Andy Gibson

Cash and Brady duck hunting with Uncle Chad and cousin Ira

Cash working on his basketball skills, even in the snow

We got a rare snow in February. The boys built a snow fort in the back yard.

Both boys finished basketball season; Brady’s team won three straight to win their tournament!


March is always one of my favorite months--it means the beginning of baseball season! This was my last year coaching the boys in baseball. It started with T-ball seven years ago; and ended with Cash’s last year in Little League. This season both boys will be playing on a select team and I’ll be a dad/fan instead of a coach. 


Baseball season! Cash was in his second year of Majors and was joined by many of his teammates from his minors team two years ago. I coached with Jim Walker for a second year and we had a blast. We won all but one game during the season (a forfeit when one of our players was ejected for accidentally throwing his bat). 

We played some extra games against some better teams and Brady was able to join us for those.

Brady finished 4th out of 14 in the 800 at his middle school conference championship. He beat his old PR by 5 seconds. He also finished 7th in long jump and 8th in the 200. Proud of our boy!

Baseball season was in full swing. I turned 54; Brady turned 13. After several years of playing Burlington soccer, Brady went back to the Northwest United Soccer Club and started the long season. 

One of our favorite activities, year in and year out--going to Mariners games in Seattle. 

The boys played in a Mothers’ Day Tournament and gave roses to the moms.

Ashley came home and surprised Jamie for Mothers’ Day!

Our handsome new teenager!
After a great regular season, Cash’s baseball team, the Cardinals, played a playoff tournament with teams from all over our area. After blowing through the tournament, we were challenged in the championship team by another Burlington team with several of our friends. 

It was an incredible, back-and-forth game, but Cash’s Cardinals beat fellow Burlington team the Navy Sox 5-4 in a thrilling Andrade Tournament championship game. Cash pitched 2.1 innings in relief to earn the win, and had the game-winning RBI with a sacrifice fly in the 6th inning.

I took a trip to Birmingham, Alabama for work and got to see several old friends. The highlight was spending a day with Ryan and Kelly Akers. I taught with Ryan and Kelly for a couple years in Fort Worth and we have stayed close over the years. Being with them was a huge blessing!

We got some hard news as my mother, Helen Newhouse, was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. There is no cure, but Mom is going through treatments and has a great attitude.

Tournament Champions! 

Coaching with these guys over the years has been a blast; Jim Walker, me, Brad Stallings and Sean Lockwood. 

Ryan and Kelly Akers and their daughter. One of those perfect days. 

Ran into Bryan Jones at a pastors’ conference. Bryan was one of my youth when I was a youth pastor; later we partnered in ministry. Grateful that our paths have crossed over the years; a truly great guy. 

Jay Wolf was my pastor in my first ministry position as a summer youth intern 32 years ago. He was a great mentor; wonderful to see him again!


For the third straight year Cash made the Little League All-Star team as we defended our district title in Oak Harbor. Cash and teammates Tyler and Hamza dominated on the mound with two no-hitters and won games 20-1, 14-0, 4-0 and 10-0. Cash was 10 for 15 at the plate. 
In four years of coaching All-stars with Brady and/or Cash, we won three district championships. It’s been a great run.

A few weeks later we took a road trip to Richland for the state tournament. We had a blast building friendships, hanging out in the hotel, cooking out, swimming, and playing baseball. We ran into some good teams at the state tournament and fought hard, but lost our two games, one to the eventual state champion. It was a great experience.

Hanging out at the state tournament with some of my favorite people--Brad Stallings, Jim Walker, Drew Fleshman and Alison Studley.

One of the highlights every summer is the Faithlife (my work) picnic. All you can eat, games and fun people. Ashley was able to come up from Portland to join us!


August started with Brady’s soccer team in the middle of the summer tournament season. They had some ups and downs, then put together a good run in the Rush Cup, making it to the championship game where they battled hard and fell short 1-0. Brady played a great tournament. 
For the first time since moving to Washington in 2011, the whole family flew home to Virginia to visit Mom and Jerry. It was a wonderful vacation.

Me and Dan Dever. Dan and I have been friends since the late 80s when we did youth ministry together. In 1992 we moved to Texas together where we were seminary classmates and roommates for several years. We both moved back to Virginia in the early 2000’s. He has been a true friend for 30 years. 

Jamie and I met at New Hope Church in 2002. Here are several of our great friends from there. From left--Brady, Dan Dever, me, Jon Feld, Ron Buzalsky, Nancy Buzalsky, Kim Feld, Jamie, Stan Harris (who also did youth ministry with Dan and me at FBC Alexandria), Jay Hudgins and the Cashman. Each of these people have invested in Jamie and me over the years. What a blessing to spend that time together. 

This was an incredibly special evening. David Blanton was my campus pastor at GMU, and the first man to disciple me. He and his wife Norma were my spiritual family in college, and we have stayed in touch over the years. Elise was part of that ministry as well, and has been a sister to me for over 30 years. This was the first time all four of us were together since my college days. 

Time with the Jenkins family; always a blessing

Nick Baatz (top left) was a good friend to Jamie and me at New Hope. Here is our family with Nick and his husband Scott. We’ve been blessed to connect with them a couple times in recent years--always a good time!

Got to spend time with Andy, Johnny and Kenny!

A more recent Virginia tradition--a meal at Cracker Barrel with Chris Hough and Mike Poff--all of us were part of Hope Church in Ft. Worth and also did ministry together in Virginia

Dining room at Mom's house, home since 1973. I’ve probably had more meals in this room than any other in my life. Great time with Mom and step-dad Jerry.

These boys love their grandma--and she loves them!

Good time with my brother Eric


After some time off in August, Brady and Cash were back in school and sports--fall baseball, school and league soccer for Brady, league soccer for Cash.

Brady’s middle school soccer team completed their second straight undefeated season (with Brady on the team; legend has it they haven’t lost in about 7 years); Brady was a real leader on the team. 

Both Brady and Cash tried out for and were selected to play on the Barnstormers, a new 13U select baseball team next season. While I am sad that my coaching career is over, I am excited for the challenges and opportunities ahead of the boys, and proud of how hard they work and what they have accomplished.

Ashley had her fourth knee surgery in the last five years. Grandma Vicki and Jamie each went down to Portland to help her.

First day of sixth and eighth grade!

Brady and I sometimes work out together at Planet Fitness; good times!

Cashman at the plate

October and November were mostly about sports; finishing up fall baseball, playing soccer, starting basketball.

This was my eighth year working at Faithlife/Logos Bible Software. I had a great month in November and won Salesperson of the Month for the second time in my time there.

In December we were blessed to spend Christmas week with Ashley in Portland! It is rare to have all five of us together for long--this was the longest we’d all been together in years. We had a wonderful time talking, eating, playing games, going to Ashley’s church, seeing the hospital where she works. It was the perfect way to end 2019!

As I get older, I realize more and more that what really matters is relationships. First of all--my family. I am blessed every day by my wife and three amazing children.

I have lifelong friends that continue to love and encourage me. 

It’s hard to believe we have been in Washington for eight years now. I’ve made some great friends through the kids’ sports, work and church. For over a year now, I have met weekly with a group of four dear friends connected through church to encourage and challenge each other. These guys celebrate with me when life is good, and lift me up when life gets rough. 

If you are reading this, you are one of the people I’m grateful to have in my life. Thank you.