Walker and Sydney Nichols – Married one year and four months

There is hardly a time that Sydney Nichols and her husband Walker can remember when they didn't know each other.

Being born only a few months apart, they started school together, and developed a friendship. That friendship, however, would go on to form the basis for marriage, a marriage that neither of them saw coming.

“We started going to school together, I was born in '97 and she was born in late spring of '98, so we were in the same class, we've always known each other, we can't really remember a time where we didn't know each other through school,” said Walker. “We had always been friends throughout elementary school and junior high and in high school. She was seeing somebody in high school, and I was gone doing my thing, so when we graduated high school, we had no intentions of being together. We hadn't really thought of it that way, we had just always considered each other friends.”

After high school, the two went their separate ways, with Sydney going to Ittawamba Community College and Walker heading out to Fort Benning for infantry school.

Their paths would not cross again for about a year, when she had completed her freshman year at ICC, and he was fresh off a rotation in California.

While on vacation with some friends, Walker was asked if he had seen Sydney lately. To which he replied no.

This question was the jolt that the dormant friendship needed to not only reinvigorate it, but to help it blossom into a full fledged relationship.

The two were set up by some friends and they began dating, however, she was living on campus at ICC at the time, and so they usually only saw each other on the weekends.

However, the relationship evolved into 2018, and she made a big decision.

“Our relationship had progressed into 2018 where she decided she wanted to commute, which I always tell everybody, especially then when she decided to quit living up there and start commuting, that I had her on the hook. She couldn't stay away from me that long I guess,” he said, both of them sharing a laugh.

What made the two of them hit it off was not only the shared experiences, having known each other their entire lives, but also that they shared many common interests and had the same goals.

They both wanted to have a family and other goals that they said were pretty common, however, according to Walker, what set it apart from him stemmed from something his mother had told him when he was young.

“One thing that stuck out to me my whole life was, my mother told me when I was a kid that all she had wanted her whole life was somebody to hold her hand sitting in church on Sunday mornings. So from the time we started dating, I went to church with [Sydney] every Sunday, and to this day, every Sunday morning we're holding hands in church.”

There were some bumps when it came to marriage. Walker went and bought a ring in May of 2019. However, a few days after that, he was told that his shift at work would be his last...he had been laid off.

However, they did not let this get them down. He immediately set out and found another job, determined to provide the future for he and Sydney that they had always wanted.

They got married on Nov. 23, 2019, with a honeymoon in Gatlinburg.

Since getting married, the couple have passed several milestones such as buying their first house together and they are raising Sydney's nephew, three-year-old Will Bailey.

Sydney said that she felt it was meant to be because she turned it over to the Lord and asked that he guide her path.

“The Lord blessed us because I never thought that I would find someone, and he's not perfect and neither am I, but you never think that you'll find THAT person. We never even considered dating and just out of nowhere, a friend wanted to go on a double date and ever since then, it just happened.”

She said that turning it over to the Lord was the best decision that she made, and she said that if she could give any advice to anyone considering getting married, it would be that.

“[My advice is] to just seek out the Lord's will,” she said. “Honestly, the Lord will tell you if y'all are meant to be and you have to listen. Don't settle. There is someone out there who will love you and who will treat you the way you deserve to be treated and to just not settle until you find that person.”

Walker added that his advice would be to not just consider if you are attracted to someone, which he said is important, but to also consider that there are numerous aspects outside of that to make a marriage work, and people often overlook these. He said to make sure that you click on all levels before diving in simply because you are attracted to one another.

Alex and Maria Casados – Married almost 15 years

When Maria Casados entered the church that one fateful day 15 years ago, she was not intending to fall in love, but that is exactly what happened.

“We met in 2005,” she said. “I went to church, and it was my first time going to church. Actually, I wanted to thank the pastor for helping my mom take care of my kids while I was locked up a long time ago. I was a single mom and I made some bad decisions, and I ended up going to somewhere I would not wish on anyone. So anyway, I went to church to thank the pastor and everybody in the church that was helping my mom with my kids and then I saw him. He sang in the church and he played the drums. But when I saw him I was more of a kind of flirty kind of girl, and I said I was going to get him no matter what. I lost track of thanking the pastor and everything because when I saw him, his eyes, I just love those eyes. I fell in love with those eyes.”

She had four kids from her previous marriage, and they were actually the ones who introduced her to Alex, who had two kids of his own.

“be careful what you ask God for,” he added laughing. “I asked for a big family, and we have a big family!”

They two of them have all together seven kids and 13 grandchildren.

They began dating, but the moment he knew she was the one was when she cooked him a meal.

“He said I hooked him up with the BBQ chicken and the mac and cheese,” she said laughing. “He said he will always remember how I called him to eat when he was talking to my mom [she motioned with her pointer finger in a traditional come here gesture and laughed]. He says that was the meal that hooked him.”

She had been having trouble with her car, so he took her to the junk yard in Palmetto to get parts for the car. On the way home, while traveling back to Houston, she said that they were carrying on casual conversation and she asked him if he had a girlfriend, and he said no, but when he got married, she would be in the front line.

She took it to mean she would be a guest, never did she think he was talking about marrying her. She said he pulled out a nice, wood grained pen and said that they were both going to use it. She said that it still didn't click with her, that is until he handed it to her and told her to hold on to it and they would use it one day.

They got married on Aug. 5, 2006.

Since then, they have seen their fair share of struggles, and life has not been easy, but they overcome and continue on because they love each other and are committed to making it work at all costs.

“When I tell you I have put this man through a whole lot, there's no words because I have put him through a lot.”

Through everything that has transpired, she said that he has been her rock. He is always by her side for better or worse, and he said he has no plans to change that. He said that marriage is a commitment to the death, and he plans to honor that commitment.

The couple renewed their vows on Feb. 16, 2019, because the first time they got married, she was pregnant and almost due, so some of their friends and family planned an impromptu ceremony to give them the wedding day that they did not have.

However, they hope that their experiences can help a younger make it through a rough patch in their marriage.

“My advice is to a newlywed couple would be to have God first in their life, but mainly in their heart,” she said. “That is my advice because a lot of people go through divorce because they are so hard, you know their heart is not in the right place, and you have to have God in your life and most importantly in your heart because then you will understand so many things. My personal experience is, that because he has God in his heart, that is why he is still standing here beside me.”

He shared her sentiment, and added that it is the love of God as well as love for each other that helps relationships survive.

“I think the love of god is stronger, and that is what keeps us alive and keeps us going. The love that we share is a lot, everything is in those four letters...Love.”

Robert and Claudia Huffman – Married 53 years

Friends for all of their life, Robert and Claudia Huffman just seem to have been meant for one another.

“Robert and I were friends first,” she said. “But mostly I was friends with his sister.”

They lived close to one another in they small community of Sparta, and so they saw a lot of one another growing up.

They dated for years, and then they married on Dec. 1, 1967, however, it was as if it had always been so.

“To tell you the truth its just like it was always supposed to be.”

Their first and only child, Mark, was born in 1969. When Mark was 11 days old, Robert was drafted into the service and they shipped out to Texas for two months.

Once they moved back, they moved back, they lived with several different people including Robert's sister Linda and her husband Buddy, and then people lived with them.

All of this is to say that there were struggles, but they overcame these struggles and kept moving forward.

“As far as troubles and things, we went through them. But you know it made us stronger and he always said I was the only one. Its 53 years as of Dec. 1 last year, but it doesn't seem like its been 53 years because its like we were always supposed to be together. Its been stressful, but what isn't? Now here we are, we're still here and I wouldn't change anything.”

Robert echoed her statement, and also said that she was the only one who he wanted to be with.

“She's the only one who could have put up with me for 53 years,” he added, as they both laughed.

Claudia then shared the story of their proposal.

“I used to spend summers in Arkansas. The third summer I went out there, after Robert and I were dating, he came and got me, and then we planned to get married. He couldn't stand to be away from me all that summer.”

Robert added that she was always willing to let him have his time, and through it all, she stuck by him.

“I'd work all week, and when I'd get off on Saturdays, I'd take off hunting and fishing or whatever, and she'd stay here and she never said a word about me going off.”

They have had to care for each others' parents throughout the course of their marriage, and when they all passed, they were, largely for the first time in their marriage, alone with one another. This was a new journey for this couple, a journey that they are still getting used to 53 years later.

“When mama died, it was just like Robert and I didn't know what to do with each other. We always went our separate ways, but its kind of been hard trying to find your way back to each other, but we did.”

Robert chimed in.

“Now we've got all the time in the world and don't know what to do with it,” he added with a chuckle.

They also offered advice for anyone who is married or thinking about getting married.

“Don't try to always be right. Its not worth it. It is a give and take relationship and when it boils down to it, you are supposed to be there to help each other.”

She went on to talk about marriage being a commitment.

“When you ask God for something, you don't give it back to him, you try to take it to the end. It's not a 50/50 thing, sometimes it can be 10/90,” she added laughing. “You just have to bear with it.”

The years have seen their share of change for the couple. They come and go and so do the people and places.

The house where the two were married has since been torn down, as has the house they were in when she found out she was pregnant, but through all of the changes they have faced, one thing remains unchanged and that is their love for each other.

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