There’s a funny cartoon of a young man wearing tefillin and praying, while his mother looks on and complains, “Why can’t you rebel like a normal teenager?”

My “rebellion” came a little later in life—I was an adult, married, with two young children.

But I had always been searching for something meaningful, something with which to identify. My husband and I grew up around the block from each other. We both received pretty much the same dose of Judaism. Most of our peers and family members intermarried, and we didn’t think much of it at the time. As a couple, we had little if any connection to our religion.

Then, I had always been searching for something meaningfulduring a Friday night Shabbat meal with Rabbi Yossi and Dina Eber and their children—my first-ever immersive Shabbat experience—a light went off. This was it. This was the “something” I had been searching for: Judaism. It had been there waiting for me all along.

During that Friday night dinner—complete with prayers and songs and delicious kosher food—my soul came alive. Later I scoured the Internet, wanting to know more about my religion of birth. What had I been missing? What was Shabbat and kosher? How could I make up for lost time, and teach my children?

I wanted it all, immediately—the life, the rituals, the holidays, clothing and prayers.

So I started collecting mitzvahs like a child hoarding candy. I called to make an appointment to immerse in the local mikvah without first learning the laws. (The rebbetzin kindly offered to teach me.) I bought a challah, made chicken soup, and lit candles for our first Shabbat. I started dressing more modestly.

I admit it. I was obsessed. A “born-again” Jew.

I didn’t fully understand what it was I was getting myself into, or how to take on change in a healthy and meaningful way. For me, it was more about the destination—all or nothing. I wanted to be in the club and leave everything else behind. And unfortunately, I was not strengthening my relationship with G‑d, nor my husband, parents or children.

In the beginning, for example, before I fully understood all the laws of kosher, I rigidly refused to eat at my parents’ non-kosher home, and I was very vocal about it. I touted our newly religious lifestyle, frequently discussing the new things we were giving up and taking on. I judged. I was condescending and overly zealous. And I didn’t understand why my friends and family didn’t see the magic and beauty—the truth—as I saw it.

The journey of a baal teshuvah (Jewish returnee) can be tricky—trying to navigate gracefully into a new world while still retaining one’s own unique identity. Along the way, I dropped mitzvahs and picked them back up. I connected more with G‑d and with myself, except for the times I turned away. But I see everything as a point along the path that I am meant to take, one that’s leading me—I hope—to a better place.

Several years ago, I moved with my husband and children to a close-knit Jewish community in Atlanta. My kids attend a Jewish day school, where they learn Torah and apply it to their lives. I admire how easily and fluidly they soak it all in—academically and in real life. They are little mensches, most of the time.

We are considered completely observant now—we keep kosher, Shabbat and family purity. While there are still many details we have yet to acquire, the framework is there. And I feel it on the inside. That I’m no longer chasing after something just out of reach. It is all part of me. Judaism has permeated my life and integrated into who I am, how I act, the way I think and the choices I make.

I have I pray that I will set a good example for my childrendiscovered that being Jewish is a wonderful thing—we are to serve as a “light unto the nations,” G‑d’s ambassadors for goodness. But first, we must have the knowledge of what that means. And it doesn’t mean lecturing others. It doesn’t mean moralizing. The beauty of Judaism, the magic of Shabbat and the richness of Torah cannot be explained with words; they must be experienced. They must be felt.

I pray that I will set a good example for my children, by showing them that my Torah observance is genuine and done with love. I still have a long way to go. I still struggle daily with making the right choices. I still sometimes yell at my children and lose my patience with them. But I’m quick to forgive myself, apologize to them and move on.

I pray that my children will grow up to love Judaism and love themselves. That they will discover and rediscover their relationship with it many times along their own paths.

I pray that they will claim their birthright and live by the Torah—in the way that they treat others, as well as in the mundane details of their daily lives.

I pray that shalom bayit—peace at home—will permeate our lives, that my husband and I will continue to grow in our love and in our service of G‑d. Because that is the foundation of everything.

I still make mistakes, but I try to view myself, and others, with compassion. And every morning, thank G‑d, I get the chance to start fresh.