For five years I have been wearing skirts, eating only kosher food and keeping Shabbat. For five years I have been what is popularly called a Baalat Teshuva, one who was not raised living an observantly Jewish life, but chose it on her own. In the beginning it was a struggle. One of those beautiful struggles where you hike to the top of a mountain and see the most incredible view. You're tired, sore, out of breath, but who cares? Then you notice behind you a full double rainbow. You take a deep breath, turn your face upwards and give G‑d a little wink, one that says: This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

The first year of keeping Shabbat is amazing. The new songs are beautiful. The candles shine in your home and heart. A little tinge of pride runs through your veins when the challah cover is lifted and everyone oohs and aahs. Every now and then you turn off the bathroom light, or do something else prohibited on Shabbat, but it's okay. You're on the right path.

Where did all those magical moments go?Not eating out…that was a hard one. And the skirts were a big adjustment because I still rode my bike to school everyday. When my favorite band came to town on a Friday night, a true battle happened inside me, and Shabbat was not exactly winning. But in the end I made the 'right' choice because the rewards of my decisions were greater than one concert (even if there was a three hour encore).

Now everyone told me that it would happen. I heard it over and over: In the beginning every new mitzvah, every Jewish observance, is like a gift and every struggle has an immediate payoff. This feeling, it won't last. That's what they kept saying — it won't last. But everything was so amazing, how could it not last? Those first classes left me so high, all drugs seemed like a joke. And besides, I was living for something higher now. I had a purpose and a place. I was connected to my Creator. All Jewish people were my family. How could this great feeling ever fade?

As time went by, remembering to say blessings on my food became easy, but also less rewarding. I was mumbling them. I was saying them so fast I couldn't remember actually saying them. I stopped kvetching over all the food I couldn't eat. But cholent, the traditional Shabbat stew, wasn't so exotic anymore. And those new songs that were so beautiful became over-sung and boring. It wasn't that the struggle had ended, it definitely hadn't. But that beautiful view from the top of that mountain became more like a postcard, and the soreness of pushing myself became fatigue.

And the family… Every family quarrels. But I had no idea how deep those quarrels went. I found out that grandparents are insulted that you don't find their kitchens kosher enough. And this friend won't eat from my kitchen for the same reason.

And those magical moments… where did all those magical moments go? There were times when I felt as though G‑d had orchestrated all of history to come together and create the most perfect moments, just for me! But where did those moments go? Why did everything seem more mundane, more man-made? Was I doing less? Was G‑d giving less?

First came love, then came marriage. And sure enough the baby in the baby carriage soon followed. But now, all that struggling seems more like suffering. Praying is a wonderful thing. But when my husband leaves me in the morning with our crying baby so he can go to synagogue, it doesn't seem so wonderful anymore. Now we're a family of three, still making the same income as before, but we have to buy diapers. Sure, every low-income family does. But add to that the price of kosher food and other necessities for a Jewish life, and it really adds up. So that nice cup of coffee waiting for me at Starbucks is going to have to wait a little longer. Shabbat, that amazing day of rest and spiritual refreshment, has now become a day of chasing my overtired, sugar-crazed son. My struggling has become my suffering.

I didn't suffer. I struggled. But I chose that struggleWas the joy I felt when I first chose to lead an observant Jewish life merely an illusion? The answer is in the question. I chose this way of life. I didn't suffer, I struggled. But I chose that struggle. At some point along the way I stopped choosing. I let the habits I formed become my service. And so, I suffer.

As soon I take a moment to realize that G‑d gave me free will - that this life is my choice - my everyday sufferings become my everyday struggles. And for life to grow, life needs to struggle. To run a marathon you have to train. To become a great doctor you have to work hard in medical school. For a child to learn to walk, he must fall again and again.

G‑d is always giving me a choice. I can stay where I am, as I am. Or I can choose to grow, struggle and work hard at manifesting more of the potential that G‑d has placed within me. We're always making choices. Every moment in time is a fork on our life path. Sometimes I run on autopilot, letting my habits, impulses and reactions choose for me. But then, when something hard comes my way, instead of seeing the struggle that will lead me to my greatness, I see all the suffering I need to get through.

Through struggling my marriage has been pushed to the brink and is now better than ever. I have made it through sleepless nights I thought I couldn't make it through and found myself to be stronger than I ever could have imagined. Living a life according to the Torah, when all the roads to an easy life lead a different way, has given me a bond with G‑d that can't broken. No matter what we choose in life, there will be struggles. But G‑d has given us an invaluable gift: free will. We can suffer for nothing or struggle for something. The choice is ours.