What a privilege it has been to have found such unity with you in our love and support for Katy, her family and her other loved ones. We have found encouragement and faith in this blog, we have found a common heartedness that we all needed so much. God Bless you, as you continue to seek the face of Jesus in the midst of your ongoing grief. May He comfort you and meet you in this suffering. His love is near, for blessed are you who mourn, for you shall be comforted.
Here is Katy's tribute. I wanted to post it as the last blog. It could be that you have been resting in your heart those memories about Katy that came to you at her funeral. If you would like, we would love to hear from you, still. Take this last chance as we are closing the blog to record your precious thoughts.
Well, dear friends. God Bless you. Kit
Katy Lee Reel
I have been describing Katy in a lot of detail lately, since we set up her blog and as I asked scores of people to pray for her. Sometimes I would be a little apologetic, saying I know that I sound like I am exaggerating, but usually I would say something like … but she really is that PURE. The purity was just the crystal clear way in which Katy lived.
Katy Lee Reel
Katy (from Katherine) it means purity
Lee (her middle name) means meadow
Katy was born in Indianapolis on April 6, 1979 and died in Phoenix, January 2, 2006. She was 26.
Katy was raised by Rick and Patty Reel, in a loving, believing home alongside her brother Lenny and sister Amy. She was the apple of their eyes, and as you know, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.
The Katy we knew and loved showed up early.
When Patty was pregnant with Amy and Katy was just 3 ½ her tired and swollen mom was resting on the couch. Katy walked by with bucket and soapy water, sponge in hand … “preg-a-nant ladies should not wash floors,” she said and proceeded to scrub the bathroom floor. When Amy was just 1 ½ she had surgery on her foot, with a cast all the way to her hip. Katy carried her everywhere, even though the cast was so heavy. And when the cast came off she still carried Amy everywhere; Patty wondered if Amy would ever learn to walk.
Katy heard a clear presentation of the gospel in the 3rd grade, in Sunday School, at Tabernacle Presbyterian Church (TAB), her church all her life, until she came here. She wanted this Jesus, Savior, Lord in her life, her sins forgiven, her life His. Her teacher prayed with her.
Dan Rexroth was Katy’s youth group leader. There were just three in her class that year, Justin, Kevin and Katy.
The mission trips Katy took with her youth group ignited her passion for Kingdom living and kingdom calling. She went to Jamaica at 14 and worked in an orphanage. This is where she first experienced the Lord’s calling – it was in Jamaica that she felt He had a special path for her, and that in part, it would have something to do with dispossessed children from a culture other than her own. For many years, after this, Katy would seek the Lord for the rest of God’s call for her and the follow up to what this all meant.
Katy picked a college 2000 miles away from home. Biola. She picked it because of this “something” this awareness that she was supposed to serve Jesus somewhere. Biola had a historical mission’s department; she would go there for that. Rick and Patty gave her such a freedom to follow this dream, letting their “joy” go so far from home; this was a purposeful release to let Katy become who it was clear she was becoming.
My dear friend, Hannah Miley who had been a missionary for 40 years was the speaker at that year’s missions event for TAB. She met Katy, the only youth at this all adult women’s conference. I remember her saying, “I met this most unusual young woman, who is so clearly focused for her age. She has a distinct calling on her life, she reminds me so much of Heather. She is going to this college in California, I think the name is Biola.” “Oh, Hannah”, I said, “Heather is going to Biola, I know I told you that.” Heather and Katy corresponded, they decided Hannah was right, they had much in common. And college began.
Katy and Heather joined three sets of other Hart Hall roommates and began a five year journey with the same friends. The nurturing and kindling of these relationships was something unmistakable. There was no picking and choosing, this friend is more like me, that friend is into the things I like. They picked their dorm friends from across the hall and next door and those friends were their investment, their partners in life. And Katy and Heather grew more alike as the years went on. The mission, whatever it was, was theirs together.
Before school started, she went to TAB to report about her summer in Phoenix, her work with the children, how she was getting a greater glimpse of the passion residing in her. The guest preacher that day overheard her report. He was an urban missionary from New York. As he spoke that morning, God gave him a word for Katy. He told her she was being called to urban work in the U.S. Until now, Katy thought she was heading oversees. But that word, combined with her summer, changed her course and became the next piece to the puzzle.
When Katy went back to Biola for her second year, she changed her major from Intercultural studies to elementary education.
Katy wrote in her journal that semester:
"At Singspiration tonight I was singing and all of the sudden this overwhelming sense of sadness came over me and I couldn't control my tears-I could barely breathe and as I was praying to God about how I could possibly love him as I should. These words I heard almost audibly "Love my children" I really began to cry & I felt overwhelmed and as the wind had gotten knocked out of me. I said, "Me Lord, how can I possibly do that?" He replied "In my strength" I still felt overwhelmed with a deep sadness. I realized that I was feeling my heart breaking for these children. I stumbled over to the prayer chapel and continued to sob. I read Matthew 18 where Jesus says that he doesn't wish that even one of the little one should perish. I said that I would do all that I could even give my life to obey this."
Katy’s heart continued to grow in obedience to her Lord:
"Dear Lord I just thank you for your comfort. I thank you that no matter where I am, I am always in your care and protection. I pray that you would be glorified in all of my words and actions. I give this semester to you. I pray that I would be a good steward of the time, gifts, and opportunities I have been given. I pray that you would help me to be diligent in my studies and help me to have a good attitude. I pray that you would soften my heart and open my eyes and ears to what you would have me learn this semester both in and out of the classroom. I pray that you would use me as you see fit in the lives of those around me. Please make me sensitive to the needs of others. Please show me what ministry you would have me involved in. I give this semester to you. Change me Lord, make me into the woman you would have me be. Amen"
Katy understood deep kingdom values at such a young age. She valued the things that Jesus places as most important. And so, her only fear was that she might veer from those, that the comforts, the predictable and easy things would rob her of and keep her from remaining inside the costliness of following Jesus.
"I am more and more attracted to the idea of teaching in the US at a public school for awhile, I don't know if that is because that is what I think would be comfortable now (that idea scares me), or if it is Satan trying to distract me or if that is God's will working in my heart. Who knows?!
I am scared of choosing for comforts sake...I never want to do that. I want to obey and I want to be stretched."
Katy finished college and took a job teaching right in Biola’s backyard, Whittier, at Ocean View Elementary. What did she love about Ocean View? Everything, the kids, her co-workers, the kids parents. Bloom where you’re planted. That was Katy. And yet, there was something missing about continuing to live in California and teach there. The pieces were still forming, the next chapter not written.
There are so many changes going on and so many decisions to be made. Forgive me Lord for worrying about them, and for not having the faith to turn them over to you. In my weakness-Lord may be your strength. In my brokenness; your opportunity to work, in my confusion: your chance to bring clarity, in my pain: your way to heal. Lord I just give this semester to you. May you be glorified in all that I say and do. May your work be done in your strength through this vessel? I pray that you will use my brokenness to mold me into a more godly woman, and the person you desire me to be. I pray that my own notions of reality would not hinder your work and your will in my life. I pray that I realize that all I need is you- you are my hiding place and your name is a mighty tower that I can run to. I pray that I would know you as I never have before. Please give me wisdom in my decision- making, in my day-to-day life and in my relationships. Amen"
And then the time was right. We needed Katy here, and her experience as a public school teacher was the perfect match for the launching of our Headstart class. We asked her if she would become a two-year intern and be our N.M. staff for this classroom. We now know that God’s preparations in Katy’s life were for this.
I can either continue with the life I have and all that implies or I could step out in faith and do what I have always felt God call in me to do. I have noticed that in my life my biggest challenge in decision-making has not been choosing between good and bad, but choosing between the easy, comfortable way, and the more difficult stretching way. ......I want to grow. I want to be stretched. I want to be used. I want to be a part of what God is doing. As much as the change scares me, I can take confidence in the fact that God has always been faithful, and has always provided above and beyond what I have needed. I feel this is God's will, and God's timing."
Of course, you know that Katy took on more than teaching in the Headstart classroom. She immediately moved into the neighborhood, and stepped into Mom’s Place and co-led that. Relationships, Katy’s strength, grew all around her. She was in homes everyday. She gently woke up moms and got the kids to school. She sat for hours every day on the Headstart van, managing the new days of living with our families. She helped create order in the classroom and helped create hope in hundreds of lives. Katy was thriving. It was like she had found it, the exact place and time she was created for. And her ability to love fell on everyone, and it nourished everyone. She was the pure meadow and we all needed it and loved it and celebrated it, though not really knowing we were. Because it all came with no fan fare, no splashy advertisement. Her obedience met our realities and we just took it all in stride.
As Katy lived among us, she found herself growing in solidarity with us. I think that’s why she liked this Nouwen quote, it resonated with what she was living …
Those who offer us comfort and consolation by being and staying with us in moments of illness, mental anguish, or spiritual darkness often grow as close as those with whom we have biological ties. They show their solidarity with us by willingly entering the dark, uncharted spaces of our lives. For this reason, they are the ones who bring new hope and help us discover new directions.
She loved being stretched to love more. She gave me this quote from M.T.:
We must grow in love and to do this we must go on loving and giving and giving until it hurts – the way Jesus did. Do ordinary things with extraordinary love: little things like caring for the sick and the homeless, the lonely and the unwanted, washing and cleaning for them… You must give what will cost you something. This, then, is giving, not just what you can live without ,but something you don’t want to live without, something you really like. Then your gift becomes a sacrifice, which will have value before God. Any sacrifice is useful if it is done out of love.
Her service was bountiful, her gifts of love, endless. Her sacrifice normal. She wrote this in her journal, four months before she found she had a brain tumor
Nov. 14, 2004
When I look back on my life I want to be able to say that I lived if fully – not being inhibited by fears, insecurities, or apathy. I want to have learned to fully trust, love, and obey. To have learned to rely on a strength that is not my own, and trust a direction that I have not contrived. I want my life to have meant something. As I grow older it is my desire that my life become more simple, more honest, and less my own. I want to be able to say that I made hard choices, took the great risk, and chose the extraordinary over the comfortable. I want to have lived a life of passion – I hope I am still called a spit fire even when I am 80 and should be “slowing down” as culture suggests. I hope that I am always going to and living in scary places and being in community with people who know no other way to be than be themselves. I want to live a life of no regrets. I hope that I am more true to myself and given passion with each passing day.
You don’t form these convictions unless you have been hearing from Jesus for a really long time? “Yes, Lord”, Katy said as she would often hear him say:
(John 12:24) "Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. (25) In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you'll have it forever, real and eternal.
(26) If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
We have all had the privilege to be used by God to honor Katy for her service once she became sick. The blog is filled with her testimony and it has gone out throughout the world. If we knew everything that has been said about her, everything that has been testified about her, and the fruit it is all bearing, we would be overwhelmed with it. And yet, all we wanted to tell her was how we loved her and cherished her in our midst and suffered with her in this sickness. And true to her nature, she encouraged us, comforted us, instructed us.
Maybe you remember her blog entry on:
October 19, 2005
Last week I found myself back in the hallways of Good Samaritan Hospital visiting a friend who had just given birth to her fourth daughter. As I held her precious baby who was just hours old, I couldn’t help but remember how she visited me in the same hospital just six months earlier. In many ways it feels that this journey began a short time ago, but in many other ways it feels as though I have lived a lifetime since April. You have been on this journey with me.
From the beginning, my prayer and the prayer of many of you has been that God would meet me, meet us, in all of this. We know that he has answered our prayers in some mighty ways. He has carried me through surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, green skin, multiple allergic reactions, and now the latest MRI that shows “No new growth!” I believe that we have truly seen a miracle.
I am incredibly grateful, as I have already outlived my life expectancy. However, I feel as though my greatest challenge is ahead of me. How do I live my life knowing that my tumor could return at anytime and that I will spend the rest my life without all of the innocent assumptions that I once had about my future? I have been thinking about this question for days now and I have to return to what I know and have seen to be true: our God is faithful and loving. In the midst of the most difficult time of my life, He has made himself the most evident to me.
In response to the question of how to live my life now, the only answer that I know is to return to the people and places and activities that God has gifted to me. I go to Head Start and play with the kids and visit with the families that I have done so much life with. I take kids to the library to discover new books. I call friends and family to stay connected. I go to birthday parties and baby showers and eat pasole. I feed the ducks at the park, because that’s all four year old boys’ favorite part. I hang out with moms who are much younger than I am and they tease me about being so old and not having any kids. I make plans for the holidays, and plant fall flowers because it is finally cooling off. I take Moms and kids to doctors for appointments. I cry when I feel sad and I see many people with so much pain of their own. I sit on my friends’ front porch and talk about our dreams for the future. I go for walks in the evening. I look at pictures of my party the night before the surgery and I wonder if I will ever be able to take it all in.
It was during Katy’s birthday party that she realized God was answering one of her most recent prayer requests. She had just let all of us know at a retreat that her heart’s cry to the Lord was that all of her people, from both of her worlds would be together, if just for a short time, to meet each other and to see each other, and to see why she loved us all. Her sickness was doing just that, our two worlds were merging.
Drying my hair for my high school graduation open house.
Holding my hand on the plane in Bolivia when I was sick.
Buying gloves for me in Copacabana.
Using a cold hair dryer to cool off my sunburn in Jamacia.
But of all I bet her best memory was Lenny with Katy, together, daily during this incredibly difficult past season.
And, we are so deeply sad. I believe, my husband Wayne received a good word for us.
“Our Katy” we all are asking “Why?”
It is no news to anyone who has lived more than a few years on this earth that those three letters comprise the most often asked question of humanity. All peoples throughout time have struggled with, “Why?” It is perhaps a question without an answer as each answer merely begs another question.
Why Katy? Katy was as sweet and charming as any picture of her we have can attest to. Her charm and grace was such a light to us that even when angry, an occasion that was rare, we still remember her as “grace- full” and not harsh or vindictive.
Her care for those around her, whether they were child, peer, or elder, was wonderful to see, and even more so to be the recipient of. She was, if anything, generous of herself to a fault and if she ever perturbed us or made us frustrated, it was usually by her patience and forbearance.
“Don’t you ever get angry?” or, “Why do you let them walk over you like that?” and sometimes some of us even asked, “Why do you let me walk over you like that?”
Maybe the simplest evidence of how sweet she was is that we all name her in this way, “Our Katy”, because she truly gave herself to us and in some way allowed each of us to own her. Katy did not merely give, time, or attention, or money, she gave us herself.
Now there is a question we can ask “Why?” to. Why did Katy do that? And it is a question I can answer. With as little “Piety” as I can conjure I want all of us to hear this as just a simple fact. “Katy Loved God.” She wasn’t in love with some idea of God. She didn’t love God because He “worked” and made her life better. Katy did not love God because He would keep her soul from hell and Katy didn’t love Jesus so she could get to heaven. She wanted to go to heaven because she loved Jesus. And just as Jesus asked, “How can you say you love God whom you have not seen when you don’t love man whom you have seen and who is created in the image of God.” we can answer our question of why Katy loved us, because she loved Jesus.
But there are many other “Why’s” we can seek answers for. Why should we have known Katy? Not everyone got to, you know; but we did. Why did God favor us so? There are places in this world that cry out for such a gift from God. Why should we be so favored and others not? If we ask why we must feel this tragic loss can we not also ask why we should have had such gain? Is not our loss proof of how favored we were? What purpose did God have in giving us “Our Katy”? Someone recently said this to me “Katy had no agenda except to be the woman God wanted her to be, and because of that she taught us so much just by being herself.”
There is no doubt, that our Katy, ran a good race and finished well. IN our hearts, we have imagined our Lord saying to her, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.'
I know I don’t have a clue what that means to enter in our Savior’s joy. But I want to. So our comfort is this. Our sweetest sister, daughter, friend knows the joy of her Lovely Lord. She is now forever in that joy.