#TellHisStory: If You’re Needing a No-Strings-Attached Kind of Love

March 3, 2015 | 52 comments

Growing up, we spent a lot of time fishing for walleye. Dad would gas up the Lund boat, and then he’d gently shake us kids awake at dawn, despite my attempts to convince him that all the fish were still sleeping in because it was SUMMER, and all schools were on vacation – including fish schools.

But he was so eager. And he always convinced us that we wouldn’t want to miss out on the fun. So we went. I never regretted those times with Dad.

There was always such a hopefulness when we headed out on those fishing adventures — leaving a frothy, waterbuggish, zigzag trail behind our boat. You never really knew whether your day would end with lots of fish in the live well – or none at all.

But that didn’t bother Dad too much.

As Dad liked to say, we were yet to find out whether the day would be more about the fishing, or more about the catching.

Dad always said there was a difference between the two, fishing and catching.

Now, mind you, Dad was a fine fisherman, so he was capable of sniffing out a good fishing hole with impressive precision. Which meant that most of the time, there was a lot of actual catching on our boat.

But every so often, we’d sit in one spot for what felt for approximately forever, with nary a bite, while the water slapped against the aluminum sides of the boat. Those days, it was not about the catching at all. Which made for some rather long afternoons for me and my brother, John.

But Dad insisted that even when we weren’t catching, we were still doing the important work of fishing. Dad said that he believed that fishing was the act of being together – and being together was something apart from what we “accomplished” in catching fish.

So we would make up silly songs while the sun hung above us, a gold button fastened to the hard blue of day. Dad would share what he’d learned about life so far. I did my best to take good mental notes for later. And sure, there would be long spells of boredom. We’d talk about fishing lures, and the proper way to set the hook, and the benefits of catch-and-release, and what I wanted to be when I grew up, and how I was going to deal with the drama of eighth grade. Meanwhile, we ate a lot of bologna sandwiches, which we had packed in our Igloo cooler.

Later in the day, the sun would sink down on the other side of the lake. It was time to go home. I was almost always more than ready to go.

But no matter if we had been catching, or simply fishing, our trips always ended the same way.

Before we’d reel in and head home, Dad would remind us to look around.

And then, with one grandiose motion, Dad would sweep an arm out across the dimming horizon, palm up, commanding us to behold the world — thick with lumbering clouds and tall with leaning trees and dizzy with swooping eagles and crying loons.

“This is the life!” Dad would say, with a smile as wide as the sunset behind him.

Suddenly, I’d feel my heart swell up inside of me, like I could burst for the joy of being here with my dad, who loved me and who wanted me to see what he was seeing, regardless of our performance as fishermen.


Now that I’m older, I understand deep within me what Dad was trying to tell me. He was trying to teach me about what it means to truly be content in this life.

He was saying to me that it mattered most that I live fully in the moments I have been given. It mattered most that I participated in the act of fishing … of being present. The worth of my life was not what I could accumulate in the live well.

I have been the kind of a woman who has been driven by productivity. I have run on the treadmill of performance and perfection. I’ve wanted to fill my proverbial live well. I’ve believed the lie that life was about what a person does, rather than resting in the truth of who she is.

And I thought I’ve had to do all of that in order to be loved. But God is saying that’s not true at all.

God is saying that life is more about the fishing, than the catching.

This is the secret to living loved. It’s what happens when your Father shakes us awake every morning, as if to say, “Don’t sleep through this! I’ve got something to show you.”

It’s what happens when we accept the invitation to get into the boat with Him, not really knowing whether we’ll be catching, or simply fishing.

It’s what happens when you spend your day in your Heavenly Father’s presence, and knowing that it’s a good day, regardless of your performance.

This is a no-strings-attached kind of love.

It’s what happens when you let go of the pressure of counting: pressure to count the fish, count the money, count the numbers on your bathroom scale, count the failures and successes.

Because here’s what really counts.

Faith counts. And our lives count because of our Savior.

I suspect that every person reading these words feels the pressure of counting, of feeling like you need to do “more” in order to count.  We all feel the pressure to get more fish in our proverbial live wells. In our workplaces, homes, and even in our churches we feel the pressure of performance and perfection. We feel the pressure to prove our worth by signing up for another committee, saying yes to another program, getting a better grade, or impressing someone with our accomplishments – all while having really great hair.

But God is saying, there’s a better way. He’s saying, don’t measure your worth by what’s in the live well; measure your worth by the One who’s driving the boat. Watch Him now … He’s sweeping his arm across the horizon of your world, as if to say, “This – THIS! – is the life. Live it. Enjoy it. I made it for you.”

This post was inspired by Holley Gerth‘s incredible new book, You’re Loved No Matter What: Freeing Your Heart from the Need to Be Perfect


Holley writes: “This book isn’t about making yourself better. It’s about learning to receive what’s already yours. It’s about knowing you’re loved no matter what. It’s about rest and grace and living in an entirely new way.” In a world where the productivity of “catching fish” has more value than “simply fishing,” Holley’s book reads like a permission slip toward freedom. Like my dad, she is inviting us to get into the boat with Jesus, and to enjoy the life we’ve been given, without living up to impossible standards of perfection. Holley is speaking my love language, and I can’t recommend this book highly enough. That’s why I am hosting a giveaway today.

Giveaway of “You’re Loved No Matter What”

You can enter one of two ways:

1 – Leave a comment in the comment box.

2 – Simply tweet this message, and let me know in the comments that you did so! I’ll draw a winner this weekend.

Click Here to Tweet: “Go visit @dukeslee for a chance to win @holleygerth’s amazing new book “You’re Loved No Matter What”: http://wp.me/p32XPW-dmt”

Buy “You’re Loved No Matter What: Freeing Your Heart from the Need to Be Perfect” by clicking here.

Post contains affiliate link.


Hey Tell His Story crew! It’s always a joy to gather here every week. The linkup goes lives at 4 p.m. (CT), and you’re welcome to link up. If you would use the badge on your blog, found here, that would be great. And if you would visit at least one other blogger in the link-up and encourage them with a comment, that would be beautiful!

Be sure to check the sidebar later. I’ll be featuring one of you over there! Lisa Appelo is our latest featured writer.



by | March 3, 2015 | 52 comments


  1. Elisa

    I don’t even remember how I came across your site (only a few weeks ago), but I am so thankful for it. I already went out and bought your book and only have two chapters left. I have always labeled myself as Type A and a perfectionist. However, I see what I really am is an approval junkie. I am not proud of this, but I am convicted of it now and working on the root cause and not just the symptoms. Thank you for the truth you share. I would love to read Holley’s new book “You’re Loved No Matter What” too! I hope I can receive a copy 🙂

  2. Laura Hicks

    I really enjoyed this! It’s a good day regardless of my performance. Shared the tweet as well!

  3. Jenni DeWitt

    Ah, Jennifer, I am sighing deeply as I read this post. My husband grew up on ranch in western Nebraska, and when we were still kids, not even married yet, his Dad took us fishing. We drove an old pickup through muddy sand hills to get to the most remote lake I’d ever seen. As we sat in the boat that morning, soaking in the quiet, I heard something I’d never heard before. When I asked my husband what it was, he explained that it was the wind picking up in the hills about ten miles away. I’ll remember that moment of peaceful silence for my entire life — truly a time when I soaked up the life and the world God made for me. Thank you for introducing us to Holly’s book. I’m sure it’s amazing, just like she is. God bless!

  4. Terri Presser

    My father used to take us fishing as kids too. We’d leave early and head out, hire a boat and off we’d go. They were great times together and I agree with you that is was more about the fishing than the catching. Thank you for your story and for sharing Holly’s new book. Blessings to you.

  5. Lisa Appelo @Lisa.Appelo.com

    Jennifer, I am honored that you featured my piece for #TellHisStory. Even writing that hashtag is such a reminder that all of this life, even the hardest hard, is a but a piece of God’s great story He writes over us. Thank you.

  6. Mary

    I love this story about your dad. I have learned more about my dad and the amazing person he is in the last few years than all my years growing up. He models humility, grace and kindness in everything he does. Examples of living life well that teach me even more than simple words ever could. He has done something right because he is 93 going on 94 years old. I love how he is content right where he is and I am the person who needs this reminder often. I am blessed beyond measure to have him and his beautiful example of living life well. **I tweeted about giveaway. Thank you! 🙂

  7. Kristi Woods

    Oh Jennifer! Your post today was God’s sunset on the lake. The “fish” have been counted a zillion times here, and this weary one hit a bucket of discouragement today. The funny part? Holley’s book sits on my nightstand right now, ready for its review. Guess where my nose will be this evening? Love that you have #TellHisStory, because that’s how our paths crossed. Go Jesus!

  8. Kamea Hope

    Absolutely beautiful! I had tears in my eyes as I was reading this. Such sweet memories and wonderful life lessons. I need to rest in the knowledge that I am loved just because of who I am – a daughter of the King, and stop trying so hard to win the approval of my loving, heavenly Father and the people around me. Thanks for the reminder Jennifer.

  9. Stacee Guillot

    Beautiful memory, I am learning to rest in knowing that I am loved just the way I am, as a daughter of Christ, that’s it’s OK to not be perfect, and the world isn’t going to crumble if I take off my mask and be myself.

  10. Kim S

    Jennifer, what a beautiful post of such sweet memories – I used to love fishing with my daddy too as a little girl. I’m so excited to read Holly’s new book – I already have it but will help spread the word about your generous giveaway! Thanks, Kim Stewart.

  11. Monica Sharman

    Stopping by to say if you ever write practical ideas on how to communicate to the kids that they’re preapproved—not just by God, but by me, the mother—I would read it.

    my disapproval
    rays from an inverse sun
    emanating cold

    Sounds like the message of Holley’s book is one I need to learn to GIVE more than receive.

  12. Betsy Cruz

    This is a beautiful post Jennifer, sweet memories. Wisdom on God’s love and living our lives well. Your dad taught you a wonderful lesson. My day is just starting while yours is ending. I’ll share this on twitter later when others on your side are awake. Thanks for graciously sharing the word on Holley’s new book.

    • dukeslee

      Betsy! You are the winner. I’m late in drawing the winner, and just used a random number generator to select the winner. And you’re it! Email me your mailing address at [email protected].

  13. Devi Abraham Duerrmeier

    Thank you so much for these freeing words – I feel like my whole “Christian world” upbringing was geared toward producing _____. Whatever we were producing, we were producing, if that makes sense. And it was so very, very busy and exhausting. The freedom turning point for me was realizing I was just his and nothing else mattered to him than that, and I could live from the space of contentment and rest.

  14. Doug Spurling

    launching, baiting, casting is fishing…and faith that pleases God, and reaps a harvest, not so much in the live well, but in the lives of those who will hear, “Well Done”

    Your dad, your DAD still fishes through you. Well done.

  15. Michelle Anderson

    This is the life! I love this post so much. I love that I’ve been truly learning to live for the moment instead of the performance all since I came home from Africa almost 18months ago. I love that we seem to be on the same page. Thanks for saying the things I feel. 🙂

  16. Abby

    Amen, Jennifer. Amen. My husband and I were just talking about the fishermen the other day, and how it’s really up to God whether we catch any fish or not. It’s isn’t up to us. Thank you for this. Lovely, lovely. I shared this on Twitter and am super excited for Holley’s new book.

  17. Sheila Dailie

    Yes! Living ” filled up” with God’s love continues to be a challenge, even with regular reminders. But God is faithful. And writers like you and Holley keep reminding us to re- focus on Him!

  18. Tara White

    Shared the tweet! Love Holley’s books & encouraging posts! Praying she is better soon!

  19. Rebecca

    Thanks for the reminder today. I spend far too much time striving for something that I forget has been there all along.

  20. Andrea Mitchell

    I really struggle with that some days – of living loved. I know it, but I need to really KNOW it. And this story of you and your brother and your dad fishing was beautiful – thank you for sharing it.

  21. Paige Estes

    Love this, Jennifer! So much of my life has been striving toward the next. I QUIT! I want to settle in to the right now!

  22. Kathie Rezek

    I tweeted! Looking forward to this mew book by Holley. It might be the first one in a new book club!

  23. Jolene Underwood

    What lovely memories Jennifer! I love that picture of your bother too. I remember dad taking me with him to the garden, but really, pulling weeds isn’t quite the same as fishing is it? Mostly I felt like a little worker not-for-hire. Eventually, I realized a similar blessing though. I watched my dad bless & connect with community through his 2 acre garden across town. Ultimately, it was a blessing to live this part of life with him.

  24. Alia_Joy

    Your dad sounds like a great guy. My husband does this with our kids. They often come back with nothing but huge smiles and good memories.

  25. Lanissa

    Looks like a great book! Shared!

  26. Trudy Den Hoed

    Such wonderful memories, Jennifer. I love your comparison between “catching fish” and “simply fishing.” Thank you. Also for the book giveaway. I also tweeted. 🙂

  27. Tera

    My dad is the exact same way! I teared up reading this. I really needed to read this today. Sounds like a great book!

  28. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Love this Jennifer. I LOVE father-daughter stories, and this is the best–the best big-fish tale! =] I didn’t get to do a lot of that with Daddy, because he worked two full-time jobs during all my formative years. I missed so much of him. And yet, he was larger than life to me, and what we did share was very special–especially when we sang together. I don’t think I personally would have liked fishing. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have. But I would have loved a lazy day with Daddy….and especially now. I’d take him back in a nanosecond.Treasure every single moment you have with this precious man, as I know you do. Pls. give your dad my very best. I really enjoyed meeting hin by phone that time.

  29. Michelle Catling

    Hi Jennifer, I’ve tweeted your giveaway! Looking forward to reading a wonderful book,

  30. Elizabeth Stewart

    I grew up fishing with my daddy, too. He was filled with wonder at the world and life. Although, he left mama and us when I was nine, he deposited in me this zest for enjoying life and noticing the beauty around me.

  31. Laura Boggess

    Fishing is a lost art and so are so many of the beautiful things that go with it. Thanks for this sweet story, Jennifer. And I don’t know why I don’t have this book yet! I tweeted about it too.

  32. Martha Orlando

    Oh, what invaluable lessons your father taught you through the experience of fishing. It’s not about the “catch,” it’s about experiencing each moment fully and in the present. Just being, and letting Jesus drive the boat. 🙂
    Blessings, Jennifer!

  33. Renee Griffin

    Sent out a tweet for you! @_zebrastripes

    This post was precious. I have some of the same memories of my dad and fishing. Many lessons are learned with a hook, a pole, wiggly worms, and waiting. Good stuff.

  34. Manda Mandrell

    Sent out at tweet! By @mandafaye23!

    I need to read this book so badly! So many things have gone on in my life and I already don’t believe I am enough, or worth anything, so I am definitely not feeling the love! I think this book would help me greatly!

  35. Laura Marie Scoggins

    Sent out a tweet! @laurascoggins65

    Can’t wait to read Holley’s new book!

  36. Kathryn Shirey

    I just love this! I’m so task and results driven that it’s hard to just “be” – but something I’m really working on. Trying to enjoy the ride of following God and not being so focused on where He’s taking me.

  37. Connie Brown

    Love this Jennifer! Breathe is my go to thought for those days when I’m on the treadmill and know I cant get off. Living on that edge is something our generation has perfected. Why say no? Because you need to breathe more and be still and know that I am God. Oh yeah and I need a haircut!! Thanks for the reminder!

  38. Naomi

    I think this is a well needed book for women in general. It would be a honor to read this and share it with others. Holley writes: “This book isn’t about making yourself better. It’s about learning to receive what’s already yours. It’s about knowing you’re loved no matter what. It’s about rest and grace and living in an entirely new way.”
    The quote says it all. I want to read this!!!!

  39. Dawn

    My father is a fisherman, also. He could spend His days rocking upon the waves and just gazing over the line of his rod and reel with deep contentment, most of the time. He would always tell me, ” It is my church. It is where I pray.” I never understood the power of being quieted by the awesomeness of the places he would go till God met my soul. It was then as I would walk out into the beauty of where we were, usually in the quiet of a walk in the field behind my house or my garden, but I would do just as your dad suggested and , Look Up… and take it in. I couldn’t withhold the praise that poured out and in an instant, I understood what my dad was referring to.
    You reminded me of those gentle moments he would share with this story, moments I need to remind him of now. Thank you, Jennifer.

  40. Amanda Jones

    I love the pictures! But I especially love the message. Thank you for the beautiful reminder

  41. Jan

    Beautifully said! I’m learning to embrace life’s seasons instead of just enduring them.

  42. Christy

    Thanks for the chance to win this wonderful book from Holley Gerth!

  43. Mindy Whipple

    THIS is the life – oh, what an encouraging post Jennifer! You pulled me in with your tales of fishing with your dad and brother (I have memories of fishing with my dad as well…) and encouraged me to let go and let God drive my boat and inspired me to keep looking around at the here and now, to let go of perfectionist ideals and be the me God desires. (And the Holly’s book – even the cover speaks to my heart. Would love to win a copy to read.)

  44. saltshakmk@msn.com

    Great post about fishing, your dad, and the life lessons learned there. Been thinking a lot about how overrated the “catching” part can be. The adventure is always in the “fishing”–that’s were the joy of anticipation lies. And, it keeps one busy enough to learn to fish well. Thinking on these things myself of late. Holly’s book sounds super–would love to win it. Commenting here and will TWEET, too! Bless you, milady–leaving with memories of my own dad taking us crabbing on the Delaware River. Loved watching how much he loved it. Smiling . . .

  45. Laura

    Oh my great goodness! This is so, so good! 🙂 Sometimes the fruits of our labor aren’t visible with the human eye, they are only felt with our souls. This is a great example of that. It sounds like you gained so much more than just how to fish on these longs days with dad. Blessings to you, Jennifer.

  46. Ellen Fox

    Hi Jennifer,

    Thanks for shining for Jesus. Thanks for shining your light in the dark corners of the world. I appreciate your book, “Love Idol” and especially this post. I too struggle with the idols of performance and love and God is slaying them in me. Who said there are few idols in North AMerica? There are many of us who struggle with idols. Yet they blind and bind us. We cannot see them and they gather power. Thanks for being brave. Thanks for using your journalism training and your God-given gift of writing to speak out about these idols. Thanks for shining His light into the darkness. Thanks for what you’ve shared. Your words speak God’s truth. He has used them in me. God has used you to show me truth and to bring me to a greater repentance to be used more for Him. He is faithful to complete the good work He has begun in us. He who promised, is faithful. He is love.

    Thanks for all you give of yourself. To God be the glory, great things He has done.

    Ellen Fox
    Alliston, ON

  47. Ellen Chauvin

    Such truth! Being present, even in the ordinary, mundane day in day out stuff…and seeing Christ in that moment! Thanks, Jennifer!

  48. Alicia F

    I loved this post and am looking forward to reading Holley’s book.

  49. Bobbie Jo

    I love her books! And I can’t wait for this one!!

  50. Becky Keife

    To look to the one who is driving the boat. To accept His ongoing invitation to breathe in the beauty that He’s created just for us. #NoStringsAttachedLove. Yes, yes! Thank you for this.

  51. Ann Pop

    I also grew up in a “fishing” family. My hubby and i now live on a lake and fish just about every weekend in the summertime. Truly fishing is NOT the same as catching. Every day on the water is a pure joy for me…whether we go home empty-handed or with a full boat of fish!! Thanks for sharing this insightful post! Ann @ Christ in the Clouds



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