The road to a Torah-observant life is long and the path uncertain for someone brought up without Jewish observance. Everywhere I looked, there was more than one direction in which to go, and I could not start the journey on my own.

In the beginning, as my neshama, my Jewish soul, awakened, II had always felt like a fraud in church most longed just to belong—to be a Jew among Jews, not the person raised by a Jewish mother who converted to Christianity. I had always felt like a fraud in a church, quite torn, but didn’t know how to begin to live life as a Jew. So I slogged along, well into middle age, not knowing where to begin. In fact, I didn’t really understand what my own dissatisfaction meant until I was “given permission” to be the Jew who dwelled inside me.

My road became clearer with a signpost in the form of a visit from Rabbi Yosef Goldwasser, the Chabad-Lubavitch emissary to the city of Mobile in Alabama. He helped me understand that my birthright as a Jew was legitimate, that my Jewishness was valued, and he encouraged me to move forward in whatever direction my heart and soul yearned.

Rabbi Goldwasser, and his incredible wife, Bina, were and are patient and always willing to explain further what G‑d wants of his children. I began to feel a need to incorporate Jewish practices into my life. One of my first decisions was to try keeping kosher. Although my nearby family—none of whom practice Judaism—tried to discourage me, I began in fits and starts to eat mostly kosher foods, scouring the grocery store for them.

At one point, I became overwhelmed and discouraged, and was even crying with worry that I could not actually do the things necessary to keep a kosher home with no family support. But the rabbi and Bina continued gently encouraging me to go slowly and do what I felt comfortable with. I am working on it.

On a recent Shabbat, I decided to turn off my cell phone, to which, like so many others, I am absolutely tethered, constantly checking messages, Facebook and emails. I can’t say it wasn’t difficult, but it turned out to be another signpost, pointing the way to a Shabbat of peace, restfulness and reflection. I also made the decision to turn off my television and computer for the duration of that Shabbat. Instead, I read chapters of Mendel Kalmenson’s Positivity Bias, drinking in the thoughts and perceptions of the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.

The power of the Rebbe’s worldview has become another signpost to teach me to move straight down the road of Jewish observance, veering neither to the right nor left. I am learning that I must consider what I say and what I do because my thoughts, words and actions have a ripple effect, and the consequences can be exceedingly far-reaching. This is a hard lesson to learn and one in which I am sure to stumble. But the signpost is clear and points in only one direction.

I also began reading Tanya, which Bina has generously offered to help me with. I am reading it in English, and it is difficult reading for a Jew so newly brought back to the fold. But it’s satisfying, too, to take this extra step in the learning process—something I can feel proud of struggling with.

I “chanced” upon an article on that pointed out to me this insight: “It is our duty, the Rebbe says, to stand at life’s crossroads with a large arrow sign and loudly proclaim to all, ‘This is the way to refuge. Here’s the Torah. Here’s how you live it. Here’s how you find peace and tranquility.’ ”

“We need to be signs,” the article continues. “For our chance acquaintances, for our friends, for our children.”

I am so fortunate to be directed by the signposts provided through the mentoring of the Goldwassers and the power of the Rebbe’s guidance.

And so, I move forward in myI am still worrying about getting everything right journey—preparing my kitchen to be completely kosher, ordering kosher meats through the rabbi, learning to cook and serve kosher foods, and remembering not to mix meat and dairy. I am still taking deep breaths and worrying a little about getting everything right, but I know I am moving in the direction my soul is telling me to move.

Feeling gratitude for the joy of my blossoming Jewishness is a daily affirmation that G‑d has chosen to touch my life in continually unfolding and personal ways. And my small gift to him is teaching myself to say the “Modeh Ani” prayer in Hebrew via transliteration. It is my way of praising and thanking the G‑d who gently but firmly has set me on the right path and provided signposts to keep me there.