Darlene Mooberry has been a wonderful friend for over 40 years.
Darlene was the first smiling face I met when I visited Knoxville, Iowa First Assembly of God. Ron and I met at Evangel in Missouri and he asked me to go home with him for Thanksgiving. I secretly hoped to become part of the Jansen Family. His family had been prominent members in the church.
Sunday morning at church I nervously tried to hide by a wall in the vestibule. Ron was busy talking to other people who were very excited to see him. “Well Hello!” Darlene grabbed my hands and shook them. “You must be Ron’s girl. Isn’t he the lucky one.” I smiled and breathed a sigh of relief. Darlene was the pastor’s wife and she had just given me her approval.
After college we lived in Iowa for almost ten months. As our friendship grew I was struck by Darlene’s energy, her zest for life and her big smile. Anytime our conversation became too serious, she would serve up a dose of scripture with such a big smile that I could almost hear God whispering – “It’s okay….Look, Darlene is smiling. It can’t be that bad.” Darlene found the positive in everything she did and there wasn’t much she couldn’t do. I have always been convinced that the Women’s group at Knoxville AG were special ladies. Helen Jansen, Mary Jane Altes and Darlene Mooberry could get anything done. Superman had nothing on those three and their WM group. Helen could sew it, Mary Jane could cook it and Darlene could organize it. Look out!
The Women’s Missionary group were some of the busiest ladies I’ve ever known. They knitted caps and mittens for the Indians in Minnesota. They cooked meals for anyone that was sick or just needed a little attention. They made blankets, raised money and outfitted most of the missionary families that came to Iowa. They worked in Teen Challenge, supported pastors, missionaries and Speed the Light.
I remember riding in the back seat of the Jansen family car. Even in the dark I could hear Ron’s sisters knitting. Click, click, click and before you knew it another cap went into the basket for missionaries. That was the mission of the WM’s (Women’s Missionaries). Never waste a moment. Always keep those hands moving. Whatever you find that is good to do – do it!
After we moved away, I kept in touch with Darlene by visiting every time we came home. I loved her daily e-mails. She explained that she jumped out of bed at 4-4:30 am and starting looking for quotes and jokes that would encourage others. She sent out copies of her daily e-mails to hundreds of people.
In a visit after her husband had passed away, Darlene went through her weekly schedule. I was tired just hearing her recall it. She compiled a hymn book for the VA hospital. She played for several of their services. She played for the church, was on the board of several clubs and community outreaches and she had a huge garden that constantly won honors for her flowers. She knew everyone in town and she was the person they called if they needed help.
Science tells us that most of us only use ten percent of our brain. Darlene would have laughed at that. She wasn’t about to waste anything – especially her brain. It wasn’t wise to tell her she couldn’t do something. She worked hard to learn all she could so she could serve others. She never allowed learning to irritate her. I’ve been known to fuss about new technology. It’s too hard or takes too much time. Not Darlene. She viewed it as an exciting way to connect with others. She didn’t mind the hard work, she just wanted to share in relationships.
Like the energizer bunny she kept going…kept pushing… kept trying and kept working until she was successful.
She was adventurous and full of life. She traveled with Helen, my mother-in-law, to El Salvador. After a local missionary service Darlene noticed a group of young people playing across the street. She ran over and made motions trying to ask if she could take their picture. They didn’t understand until she took a few and then showed them the images on her camera. They were so excited. Kids came from everywhere and soon a large group surrounded her. Darlene giggled, laughed and made friends. Not even a language barrier could keep her from being her best.
Darlene, Cleo Tosten and my mom went back to El Salvador at the request of Victor and Lynn Diaz. They needed help to inventory medications in Lynn’s Clinic. They spent three tedious days counting and documenting every pill in the clinic. Darlene put a positive spin on the work by announcing, “I thought I was too old to do this, but I can count just as good as I ever did!”
Darlene was a sought after musician. She taught piano and organ to most students in town. She loved young people and found great joy in talking with them. She was quick to go with other ladies on MAPs trips. They signed up for a week of helping missionaries with any needs they might have. They sewed, painted, cooked and even inventoried medicine. Darlene received several honors for her work, her dedication and her desire to help anyone that needed it.
As I aged, Darlene taught me the most valuable lesson of all. Darlene had found the fountain of youth. She tapped into ageless beauty. After she turned 90, I teased her that she was 70 going on 25. I told her many times that I prayed to be like her. There were no beauty tricks or special vitality routines. She didn’t spend time puffing up her accomplishments (though there are many) or standing on a soapbox. Darlene just continued to see life through the eyes of a child. She giggled at funny stories, loved chatting with friends and adored all her students. When she talked about music she absolutely lit up. Her many clubs, church groups and obligations gave her joy. Once she showed me her office and all her organizational binders. I asked if she ever felt overloaded. She looked at me like I had two heads. “No Way.” She boasted….”I love it! I love staying busy. The only time I want to sit is when I read a book.”
My parents are retired ministers and I love them very much. They both live with me and have severe dementia. They sleep and they eat. They merely exist. Watching them I constantly pray, “Please Jesus, let me be like the Superwomen of Knoxville. Please let me be like Darlene.”
Darlene passed away December 1, 2014. She was 94. Obituary & Pictures
She was just as busy her last day on earth as she was during the rest of her life. The angles probably had to tap her on the shoulder several times before she stopped. I am positive that when she realized they were serious, she gave them a huge smile. She asked for her heavenly jogging shoes and challenged them to a race. I can see her running through the clouds and yelling – “Is that all you can do. Come on guys!” When heaven’s gates opened she dashed inside, out of breath… looked at Jesus and said, “Wow, what a ride!” While all of Heaven rejoiced at her homecoming, Darlene was probably looking around for something to do.
Reflecting on Darlene’s life has made me wonder – why was she so remarkable? Why does she stand out when others don’t?
I’ve decided it’s because she was determined to be everything God created her to be.
Humans can create a good life. But God’s desire is for us to have a great life!
He created us for…..A life full of purpose…. A life full of joy….A life full of love….A life full of friends.
Darlene is the epitome of what God can do when we decide to be everything he created us to be.
Can you imagine what life would be like if we all became like Darlene?
Because there are so many of us that loved Darlene’s Daily e-mails, I will be reposting them on my website. I saved everyone she sent me. They won’t be in the order she sent them…they are saved in multiple places….but I know you will love the encouragement, the jokes and the recipes. Like Darlene I will post one a day until I’ve added all that I’ve saved.
I pray that God will encourage all of us to be “just like Darlene” and make the most of our lives.
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