If I’m being completely honest, I wasn’t excited about reading this book. I started with the synopsis on the cover — I like to know a little about what I’m devoting an afternoon to reading before I start — and it didn’t really pique my interest.

It seemed obvious that “life can make us competitive and judgmental” and that it’s easy “to lose love for others and then for ourselves.” I’ve heard and experienced all that before. Of course the world is full of impossible standards, that’s nothing new, and I doubted Jen Hatmaker would have anything to say that radically changed my outlook on life. But I had an assignment to complete, so I began reading, despite my initial lack of interest, and it didn’t take long for me to change my mind.

As it turns out, Jen Hatmaker is funny, and reading her inspirational essays in “For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards” (Nelson Books 2015) is like spending an afternoon swapping stories and getting advice from a good friend.

“For the Love” is filled with advice, from how to build better and lasting relationships with other women, to how to balance work and family and how to face the challenges of motherhood and marriage without losing your mind. The secrets are laughter, especially not being afraid to laugh at yourself, and forgiveness — asking others for it, giving it and most importantly forgiving yourself.

No one can do everything well, and Hatmaker makes this crystal clear as she shares her struggles to conform as a young newlywed and mother of five, to her decision to live life by doing the best she can each day.

In her introduction, Hatmaker relates her dream for this book: “I hope you close the last page and breathe an enormous sigh of relief. I hope you laugh out loud because you just got free. Then I hope you look with fresh, renewed eyes at all your people—that one you married, those ones you birthed, the ones on your street and in your church and at your work and around the world—and you are released to love them as though it is your job.”

Her ambitions seemed lofty, but by the end, her goal was realized because she shifted my perspective, reminding me that the world is so much bigger than I generally think it is, and that things that seem so important are just things — experiences to learn from and let go of as life goes on.

I couldn’t relate to all of her advice — I’m not married and don’t have children, but I certainly appreciated her perspective and her straight-forward yet humorous approach to writing. My favorite sections of “For the Love” were the thank-you notes, filled with sarcastic shout outs, such as “Thank you, To-Do List, for going along with it when I add things to you that I’ve already done, just for the satisfaction of crossing them off.” Her sense of humor really shines in these passages, and made me see her as a friend whose advice I’d take to heart because she sees the world a lot like I do, even though a lot of our life experiences are vastly different.

I also really enjoyed her chapters about the mission work she’s done at home in Austin and around the world as a pastor’s wife. It showed me her compassion for people and reinforced a theme found throughout the book — you can’t do everything, so quit trying.

At the end of the day, life isn’t perfect. We all make many mistakes, and there will always be challenges, people who thrive on conflict and obstacles that threaten to overwhelm us. But what’s important is how we react, or as Hatmaker would say, how we overcome, set the struggles aside and commit to loving each other. Let God be God and let us be loving, graceful and here for one another. It’s great advice. Hatmaker inspired me to live each day for the love. I won’t always succeed, but I will always try.

Contact M. Clare Haefner at chaefner@kdhnews.com

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