Shawn and Nicki follow God’s plan for their family
Even before their marriage, God was at the center of Nicki and Shawn Kitchner’s relationship. The couple, who live in Marshfield, brought God into their relationship by following Natural Family Planning (NFP).
“We took a NFP class when we were engaged and were excited to learn more about it and practice NFP in our marriage,” Nicki says.
“The more we learned about it, the more we knew it was for us,” says Shawn. “As our family has continued to grow, we asked, ‘Is this what God wants? Is this what God wants for us now?’ We’ve learned it’s not so much about our timing. God’s timing is perfect.”
For them, NFP is more than just a method of how to achieve or postpone a pregnancy in a way that is consistent with Church teachings. “A big part of NFP is respect for life and being pro-life—supporting and loving the lives of everyone we encounter,” Nicki says. “NFP is about respecting God’s plan and the process, being open to life and then respecting the life we have been given.”
“A big part of NFP is respect for life and being pro-life—supporting and loving the lives of everyone we encounter.” – Nicki
NFP helped redirect Nicki and Shawn from what they thought they wanted to understanding what God wants for them.
“When we first got married, people would ask, ‘How many kids do you want?’” Nicki says. “Our response was four to six, somewhere in there. Ten years later, we have four children here on earth and one little saint in heaven. We continue to be open to life and discern God’s plan for our family. But we’re learning it’s less about a number and more about God’s plan for our family.”
Using NFP has been a three-step process in the Kitchners’ marriage. Discernment, prayer and trust are the foundation in their marriage and give the couple a better appreciation for the miracle of each life.
“We discern God’s plan through prayer,” says Shawn. “If we feel He’s calling us to have another child, then we pray to be able to conceive. Then, if we become pregnant, we pray for the baby in the womb, all the way through labor, delivery and birth. This process helps us to have a total appreciation for this new life and God’s guiding hand in all of it.”
The process has not always been simple and easy for Shawn and Nicki, but by cooperating with God’s plan, they receive a gift of joy from each new life that joins their family.
“When we were first married and started trying to be pregnant, we didn’t get pregnant right away and we were discouraged,” Nicki says. “A couple months later, we conceived our son and God’s timing was perfect. Had we conceived at a different time, he wouldn’t be the same person! That has been the case with each of our kids. We may have a plan and timeline in mind, but God’s plan is so much better than what we could imagine for ourselves.”
“It’s not our timing, but His, and it’s not the child that we think is best for us, but the one that He knows is best for us. We just need to put our trust in God’s plan for us,” says Shawn. “Before any one of our kids was born, we felt a short moment of worry. We would think, ‘We are not ready for our family to change. We just love our family so much, as it is, right now.’ But then, through the process, God really prepared our hearts. By the time the next child was born, there was a sense of peace and trust.”
Although there can be a temptation for young families to always be focused on the next phase of family life, NFP helps Shawn and Nicki stay in the present. They know it isn’t just about having children, it’s about caring for them.
“We are very open to more children if that’s what God wants for us,” Nicki says. “We’re trying to really live in the present moment of where God has our family right now. And to be focused on the four lives that He has given us—four children with four unique personalities, all needing to be nurtured in unique ways.”
“Our children have been huge blessings for us,” says Shawn. “They help us grow in our vocation. The kids teach us that it’s not just about us anymore. They draw us out of our selfish tendencies, allowing us to grow closer to God.”
Parenting is a learning process for Shawn and Nicki. Their Catholic Faith has helped guide them as parents and sharing their Faith with Joseph, Adelina, Juliette and Michael has strengthened their bond with each other and with their heavenly Father.
“We’re not perfect parents and we definitely make our fair share of mistakes,” Nicki says. “And because of that, ‘apologies’ are very much a regular part of our family life. But the challenges can also be wonderful blessings. Our kids are learning to respect the differences amongst themselves and that everyone is entitled to their own preferences and way of doing things.”
Their families, the community at Our Lady of Peace Parish and the children’s attendance at Columbus Catholic Schools have provided an extended faithful family that benefits all the Kitchners.
“We are so blessed to be in Marshfield. There are three Catholic churches and a great Catholic school system,” says Shawn. “Our friends are doing their best to live their Faith and teach their kids. And our families live nearby and offer a tremendous amount of love and support. It makes it easier to live our Faith with this help and encouragement.
The tenets of NFP will always be part of the Kitchner family foundation, even when the childbearing years come to a close. “A big part of NFP is ‘respect for life’ and being ‘pro-life,’ both in the traditional sense—sacredness of life from womb to tomb—but also in the sense of supporting and loving the lives of every individual that we encounter,” Shawn says. “To respond lovingly toward our children all the time, even when we as parents are tired or crabby.”
“It reminds us of the quote by Mother St. Teresa, ‘If you want to change the world, go home and love your family,’” says Nicki. “More than anything else, we want to get to heaven, we want our kids to get to heaven and we hope God can use us to make a difference in other people’s lives along the way. We have a long way to go, but by the Grace of God, we’ll get there someday.”
Story by Mary Kay McPartlin
Photography by Mike Lieurance
Published in the January/February 2022 Issue of Catholic Life Magazine