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Journeying with a knee replacement.

Jack’s knee replacement loomed large on the horizon. We scrambled to cover all the bases ahead of time, anticipating his six weeks of recovery as best we could. Plans for a quick vacation before the surgery morphed into mornings spent working, followed by afternoon motorcycle rides. Surely we could balance the hard work with some seasonal pleasures. As the day approached, the anxiety level rose. 

Jack looked forward to eventual relief from the chronic pain in his knee, but he dreaded the actual surgery and convalescence. I wondered how I’d be able to handle the subsequent workload. Could I really juggle my work, his work and the job of looking after Jack during the busy summer months? I waffled between mindsets: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” vs. “If you can’t keep up with the footmen, how will you run with the horses?” 

We prayed. We prepared. We trusted the Lord would provide. 

The operation went well. “Totally boring and completely routine,” the surgeon said with a smile.

Under the effects of the epidural, Jack was Superman. He happily managed every task required by the hospital physiotherapist – walking the hallway, climbing a couple of stairs, bending his knee. They released him the next day. The epidural wore off around the time I picked him up. Reality set in.

So began the cycle of ice packs, heavy duty painkillers and the constant struggle for Jack’s comfort. He slept a lot and fought discouragement. A friend who has had both knees replaced assured him it would be two and a half weeks of misery and then things would start to improve.

A week later our chickens came in. For the first time in 40 years, I placed birds without Jack in the barn. The delivery guys were helpful, but I moved in a daze, trying to remember all the details Jack had gone over with me – things that are second nature to him. Little things left undone can cause big problems. 

Every morning I said my poultry prayers as I walked through the barn. Day by day those chickens grew. Jack needed less help and fewer pain meds as time progressed. He described his physiotherapist as a “mean little person,” but he worked diligently through the prescribed exercises. He started helping out as much as he could with household tasks. 

One morning we made strawberry jam. I promoted him to mashing the berries. Within a minute he had enthusiastically pounded them into pure juice. His technique needed tweaking, but his heart was in the right place.

A rented mobility scooter allowed Jack considerable freedom on the yard. He visited his shop, the barn and the garden. He accompanied Norton (the dog) and me on our evening walks. He read books, played guitar and tinkered on the gearbox of his Norton (the motorcycle). Through it all he kept his sense of humour and let me know every day that I am loved and appreciated.

It’s been an unusual, but uniquely beautiful summer. In between the frenzy we enjoyed glorious mornings, spectacular sunsets and countless coffees on the deck. The chickens shipped on schedule and on target for weight. Now we’re working together to clean the barn and prepare for the next batch. Life goes on.

By God’s generous grace and favour, my husband and my schedule are returning to “normal.” I’m thankful for the ordinary joys of each day. Seems to me the Lord sends challenges now and then to remind us how much we need him.

And who knows? I may run with those horses yet! 


  • Heidi VanderSlikke lives on a farm in Mapleton Township with her husband Jack. They share their home with a gigantic Golden Retriever named Norton, who thinks he's a lap dog. Heidi and Jack have three happily married children and seven delightful grandkids.

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