Getting older…getting younger

October 3, 2011 | 27 comments

This post was originally published on April 9, 2008.

My husband and I came across some old photos the other day. It was fun to take a trip down memory lane as we glanced through our pictures from a 2003 vacation, but I was surprisingly caught off guard when he made the passing comment, “We look a lot younger there!” We happened to be looking at a photo of me, and my initial reaction was to think:

I was younger there?

I did a quick double-take and noticed that I was indeed chronologically less old when I stood on that street in Prague. Yes, of course, what was I thinking? This photo was taken five years ago. I was not only younger, but also a few pounds lighter and more “carefree” with fewer responsibilities. And yet, the picture registered as if I were looking at a picture of an older, heavier, more burdened version of myself. How could it be, I wondered, that I could be five years older, fifteen pounds heavier, and have all the responsibilities of a wife and mother who just had her third baby in three years, yet look at this old picture and feel younger, lighter, and more free now than I did then? The one-word answer is this:


Here’s the longer answer:

Sometimes I come across old pictures that bring back memories of times of difficulty; usually, as was the case with our 2003 vacation photos, old pictures bring back memories of laughter and love and good friends and good times. But one universal feeling I have when I look at photos from more than a couple years ago, no matter whether they were taken in times of challenge or joy, is a sense that this picture was taken in the wilderness. It’s a sense that, regardless of the actual location of the photo, I was standing in a no-man’s-land of trouble and even danger; that, unbeknownst to me at the time, I was carrying burdens I didn’t need to carry and wandering directionless across rough terrain when there was a marked path waiting for me. To the girl looking back at the camera, I feel like calling out to her, “Hang in there!”

In the past couple of years since the beginning of my conversion I’ve gotten a couple more wrinkles, some new gray hairs, and am starting to feel some aches and pains that weren’t there before. Technically, I’ve gotten older. But I’ve also come to believe in God, and have begun to understand that my only purpose here is to know, love and serve him. And if to be younger is to be more full of life, more willing to love, less burdened by cares and worries, and somehow closer to the beginning of it all, then I am younger now than ever before.


  1. Brent


    First, so glad God found you!

    I’ve found that nothing brings on aging more than having children. The before and after is laughable. I recently went to the gym and had to get a new card. My old card had a picture of when we just had one little one. My face was so fresh and un-tired. In my new picture (not to mention I had a full beard), my eyes were had semi-dark circles, I had more wrinkles, I just looked…well..older! We have 4 kids 5 years and under (a similar situation you find yourself in). Would you agree that kiddos bring on a different kind of aging?

    God bless,


    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      Sorry I’m late on this – just now getting a chance to reply. Anyway, great question. I do think that parenthood ages us physically, but it makes me feel younger in a lot of ways as well, to see things through a child’s eyes. 🙂 Thanks for your kind words!

  2. Tracy

    Jennifer (and Brent)~
    I agree, kids definitely age us! LOL! And I have often looked at old pictures and thought, “Oh, how little I knew”, if I could only just impart some ‘wisdom’ to the younger me in the picture; then I stop to think how I little I know now. Blessings!

  3. Christie @ Garden of Holiness

    I know that feeling you are describing well. For me, in my older pictures, I see a hint of sadness and longing that isn’t with me now. Pre-conversion the undercurrent of joy in Christians used to annoy me. Now I understand why–I coveted it. Now that I have it, I know that it’s free for the asking.

  4. Jenny

    Good reading… I must find my old photos now!

  5. elizabethe

    Thanks for this. When I look at my pre-conversion pictures and think of my pre-conversion life, what I think is that I was desperate then. Even the happiness, the big smiles, the fact that I was better looking, thinner, younger, had more “fun,” had a “social life”, had a passionate cause I was working towards, I remember underneath it all was a strong current of desperation. Of, “is this it?” of, “what the $#@* am I doing!”

    Since my conversion, life is harder in a lot of ways (in some ways, because of my conversion), I’m not as young, we’ve had some rough times, I don’t laugh as much, don’t have as many friends, don’t have family close by, don’t have my passionate cause anymore (my old ideology completely conflicted with my new faith), but at the same time, I feel more stable. I know I can offer up these sufferings to God, and it’s all to a purpose. What I’m saying is conversion doesn’t make everything joyful and rosy but it puts a solid ground underneath your feet where there used to be a tight rope.

  6. Roselady

    Very nice piece. Ohhh, there are so many things I want to write about age lately….I think that happens when you hit mid-30s.
    But, I get what you’re saying. I love what you’re saying. Like all of us, a pic brings back memories that few others can see — I love that you see your life so much fuller now.

  7. Roxane B. Salonen

    Jennifer, I read something just the other day…wish I had it in front of me now…that related so well to this. It was sort of the idea that we’re always in a youth-like state in our search of Christ, because it’s that very search and drawing to Him that gives us energy and life. The line about, “Hang in there” to your younger self was especially powerful. I have had similar thoughts about my old life, and I have similar thoughts about the children when I see them struggling — especially my teens. “Hang in there; there’s a beautiful world just around the bend. Don’t give up on it.” It’s helpful to me to remember what life was like before my vision became clearer, and I’m glad I can remember so well so that I can at least share that with others whose lenses need a good cleaning. Sometimes, though, it’s out of our control. All we can do is do our best to reflect the Light and hope that others around us will feel it and see it, too, and that it will give them something to hope for.

  8. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    I have a pic just like that of myself in Prague! From 2001, when I was also “chronologically less old.” Love the phrase. My brain is frantically trying to grab a C.S. Lewis quote along the same lines of age and youth and wisdom and knowledge….help??

  9. Robert Threadgill

    Can’t help but think of what the Father says in Revelation 21 “See, I am making all things new”. Or Paul in II Corinthians 4 “though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day”.
    Robert Threadgill

  10. WSquared

    This reminds me of a comment that Peter Seewald made about B16: that most young people he’s met are not as youthful as the Pope. William Oddie over at the Catholic Herald also remarked on how the Pope had a punishing schedule during his visits to Britain and to Germany, and yet, he somehow had the energy to do it all.

    …and the guy is 84.

    It has everything to do with God’s grace, as you’ve pointed out.

  11. Leila

    Wow, this really struck me. You could be speaking to any number of young Jens out there, whom I hope are reading. “Hang in there” is the message to them as well. Great insight.

  12. Jenna@CallHerHappy

    Great post! I have read your post about talking to athiests. Do you have any advice for talking to someone who is a believer, but isn’t active in her faith? I would love to have tools for that!


  13. Brittany

    It’s so easy to get stuck thinking about how we look on the outside…just like you talk about in the forward for Kate Wicker’s book “Weightless” (which I loved, by the way; I’m now using it for a teenage girl’s group Bible study). What a freeing feeling it is to think of youth as an outlook and not an age or pants size!

    The fountain of youth really is only as far away as a look at how much Jesus loves us. 🙂

  14. Josephene Kealey

    The first time I read this post, I thought you had written “Here’s the logical answer” — which had made me laugh because I thought you were winking at certain commentators who just have a hay-day with your conversion stories (you faithless atheist, you : )

    Looks can be deceiving, as you so beautifully write, but you really look great in that picture! What a great scarf! I loved Prahu, as the Czech’s call their city.

    • Josephene Kealey

      Err. Praha.

  15. Jamie

    Hi I’m a new follower from Catholic Mothers Online. What a great post! I love conversion stories!!

    Feel free to stop by my blog anytime.

    For Love of Cupcakes

  16. Lauren

    Beautiful. Jenn, I’ve been totally addicted to your blog lately and catching up on old ones that I’ve never read. Your writing is such a gift!

  17. Jeff

    Interesting observation about feeling younger after conversion. When I am active in a daily prayer life (not just fulfilling my sacramental obligations), I feel more strength. I am more able to laugh at myself and keep the big picture in mind. I do not feel nearly as stressed out, overwhelmed or uptight about the daily happenings as a disciple, husband, father of two beautiful children.

  18. Claire

    What a great post, and so full of hope!

  19. Kali

    Late responding to this post, but what a wonderful sentiment. I’m looking into converting (my husband was born and raised Catholic) and your blog is such a refreshing, lovely place. If it’s any reflection of the Catholic community, I can’t wait to be a part of it!

    Have a lovely evening,

  20. Deborah

    Love this, Jen! I feel the same thing when I look at photos of myself “pre-Conversion”! I may be older now, but I am SO much more at peace!

  21. Leticia Walls

    Sorry I’m late on this – just now getting a chance to reply. I have a pic just like that of myself in Prague!

  22. Alexandria Bradshaw

    I have a pic just like that of myself in Prague! For me, in my older pictures, I see a hint of sadness and longing that isn’t with me now. …and the guy is 84. Interesting observation about feeling younger after conversion.

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