Sometimes I feel so alone. I chose to take on a religious life 11 years ago, after I was already married for seven years and had my first two children.

My husband didn’t go along with itMy husband didn’t go along with it in the beginning in the beginning. While I had fallen in love with Judaism from an emotional place—the Chabad rabbis and rebbetzins I met, the way they made me feel that being a Jew was so special and holy—he was coming from a more intellectual, analytical place. He just wasn’t hooked the way I was.

I had been—for years before—seeking fulfillment in a life that lacked a spiritual framework, a historical connection and community support—things I didn’t necessarily realize were missing, let alone existed within Judaism. I finally experienced glimpses of these aspects in the lives of my new friends and mentors who were part of a world I admired longingly from the outside, yet worked tirelessly to access.

While my husband was silently resistant (at best) to the drastically different lifestyle I discovered and tried to embrace, my parents were openly opposed. They sent me e‑mails about cults, and met my zealous and passionate pleas with coldness or hostility. It was painful.

With two toddlers in tow, I marched onward—learning more, doing more, wanting more out of our Jewish life. Somehow, over the next decade, we integrated halachah, the laws of Torah Judaism, into our modern American lifestyle so seamlessly that most within this world don’t realize from where we have come. It’s a beautiful thing, except when it’s not.

On our search for spiritual growth we have journeyed to several Jewish communities, immersing our children in religious schools. It has been a journey of peaks and valleys, holiness and hostility. I have sometimes felt isolated and unsupported in this new world.

But as it turns out, this journey, for the most part, really begins within myself: my connection with G‑d, my developing relationship with Him and my own self-growth.

The Torah laws are a framework for our daily lives, a way to access the Eternal; but ironically and by design, that means looking deeply within.

By nature or nurture, I have always run from pain, from difficulty. I have judged others and myself harshly. I have put up walls in order to protect myself from even those closest to me. I have been passionate and impulsive.

Along the path of learning the laws of keeping kosher, observing Shabbat, being modest, maintaining family purity and more, I have also learned about myself and what I want to improve. To be more consistent and calculated, to face pain head-on and use it as a springboard for growth, to love others as they are, and to open myself up to friendships and connection by reaching out more to others. To understand fully that “it’s all good,” even when it doesn’t feel that way.

I have discovered that there is an intellectual way to observe Torah, and an emotional way. Sort of like the body and soul. And depending on the type of person you are, one way may come easier than the other. The goal, I think, is to push ourselves lovingly in whichever areas are more challenging, but not to push others.

My husband is with me on this journey, and although we are different, we are now working together, as unique individuals with common goals. And I have learned to better appreciate my parents for all the beautiful kindnesses they have shown us over the years.

Fast-forward a decade, and I am here alone at my kitchen table. Soon I will awake my four children to get ready for their school day. But the most important education they will receive is from me, through how I interact with them and with others. The way I handle challenges. How I retain my faith, even in difficult situations. The way I strive to balance my passion and creativity with intellect and consistency, all within a framework of Torah. I sometimes feel like I’m failing, but overall I know that with G‑d’s help we are headed in the right direction.

I am learning along with my children. As my kindergarten son does his Hebrew reading homework, I follow along with my finger, enunciating the letters, vowels and words together with him. Sometimes he’ll correct me. My middle-school children have far surpassed my Hebrew textual knowledge. I have a master’s degree in communications; words are my life. Yet there is still so much I have yet to learn. Doing Judaic homework with my children has been a humbling (and sometimes harrowing) experience.

Sometimes it feels like there is noSometimes, it feels like there is no one to cheer me on one to cheer me on. And so, especially at those times, I am training myself to watch or read something inspiring, to call a friend, to pray for the strength to take the next step forward in a positive way. Sometimes I succeed, and other times, I grab a sugary snack, take a nap or (yes, inevitably) snap at those around me. But deep down I know the goal, even when I may forget.

Serving G‑d with all of my limitations and my gifts at times can be a lonely endeavor, but it’s worth it. While the overall journey can seem daunting, the key is taking the dark, challenging moments—just the moment at hand—and turning it around, taking a deep breath and asking for help, silently or aloud, G‑d, I feel so unsure, please be with me and guide me.

And with G‑d’s help, I’m learning to be more confident as a mother, a wife and a Jewish woman, to trust my intuition and to understand my potential impact on others. And then, at those moments I no longer feel so alone.