Ambition Rewired

Caring for her dying father, Liz Lindow found a deep sense that she was loved, and this knowledge rewired the way she pursued her ambitions.

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It was a warm summer evening in August. Liz (Schroeder) Lindow (Business ’07) had just sat down to dinner with her husband Tim. Colorado’s orange-pink twilight passed through the kitchen window, illuminating a glowing bowl of fresh peaches on the tabletop. They had barely started eating when her phone rang from another room. She rose quickly, knowing her father Gordon was calling with the results of his CT scan, but the call went to voicemail.

Lindow returned to the table and redialed. “I got the results back,” her father said. She went numb, barely managing to speak. “I’m really excited to hear them,” she said nervously. Her father almost laughed. “It’s not good.” Cancer. Stage four. The malignant cells had infected his bones, lungs, and abdomen. Lindow thought her chest was caving inward. Gordon, her strong, active father, who loved peach cobbler and played baseball even at 78 years old, now faced two years of treatment with an uncertain chance of recovery. She muted the phone so her dad wouldn’t hear her crying.

With that phone call, everything changed for Lindow. For the past 12 years, she had been chasing a vision of success where she measured her significance by her ability to produce specific outcomes, such as growing her freelance business, increasing her influence in corporate leadership, or achieving financial security. But that phone call would change everything, including her definition of a successful life. Six weeks after hearing her father’s initial diagnosis, Lindow took a leave of absence from her job, paused a foster parent certification process, and moved back to Dallas, Texas, to support her parents.

Though she grew up in Carrollton, a suburb in north Dallas, Lindow always wanted to live in New York City. Despite her parents’ initial reluctance, she transferred in 2004 from Texas A&M to The King’s College, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business Management, becoming the first recipient of the Joe T. Ford business award at graduation.

At King’s, Lindow excelled in a dynamic learning environment that integrated the classroom with the city. During a course on entrepreneurship, she visited an investors’ pitch meeting in Midtown, observing business professionals implement best practices in real time. During her junior year, Professor Dawn Fotopulos hired Lindow as an assistant and helped her start a personal assistant and project management business.

But despite the mentorship and opportunity, despite living in the city of her dreams, Lindow couldn’t escape the feeling that she wasn’t good enough. In her senior year, her business in project management attracted several investors and was positioned to grow, but her imposter syndrome held her back from taking the next step.

About a month after graduating, Liz married Tim Lindow. They lived and worked in New York City for the next two and a half years. Tim recalled how many of the Christians with whom they interacted at King’s believed that success meant getting “high up” in strategic institutions. A common refrain at King’s during that time was “God. Money. Power.” Tim says this lent itself to the belief that “you had to work to gain lots of power and money before you could show Christ to the world or change anything. But the pursuit of power and money isn’t what Jesus taught.”

This definitely shaped Liz’s thinking. After graduating in 2006, Lindow would spend the next twelve years trying to build a career around this idea of influence, laboring to transform society on behalf of Christ by working hard in strategic roles, whether that was as a project coordinator for public health and business initiatives in Rwanda, in regulatory analysis in the oil industry, or as a freelance business consultant.

Ten years in, it seemed like her hard work was paying off. In 2016, Lindow began working at a Denver based fintech startup and quickly mastered her role managing customer success. In 2018, her CEO invited her to join the launch team for a new technology project at the same company. She also started interviewing for higher paying roles at other tech startups, hoping to get a leadership position where she could drive strategy for customer success at a mission-driven company.

But then came the first call from her father, sharing the results of his CT scan. After a second CT scan, the doctors said that with chemotherapy, he had one year to live. Without aggressive treatment, he could survive for one to three months.

Lindow’s career ambitions vanished immediately. With a remote position not available at work, her only options were a leave of absence or severance. She took the leave of absence, realizing that her career at the startup was at best uncertain, perhaps completely over.

The move had other costs as well. Lindow and her husband were in the middle of finishing their foster parent certification, which was essential to fulfilling their dream of serving children as foster parents. In moving to Dallas, not only would they have to wait, but Lindow faced the heartbreaking possibility of becoming a parent without her dad.

When she first arrived in October, her parents didn’t think they would need her help. But Gordon’s condition quickly worsened over the next two months and Lindow’s support became vital. By the end of November, she and her sisters looked after their father as if he were a child: dressing him daily, taking him to the bathroom, and lifting him in and out of a wheelchair. Gordon could barely recognize his family. Lindow said that her time caring for her dad was like watching a glass fall in slow motion, knowing that water would spill everywhere, and desperately trying to push the water back into the glass before it all spilled out. She clung to the words of Psalm 139.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?

    Or where shall I flee from your presence?

If I ascend to heaven, you are there!

    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

If I take the wings of the morning

    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

even there your hand shall lead me,

    and your right hand shall hold me.

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,

    and the light about me be night,”

even the darkness is not dark to you;

    the night is bright as the day,

    for darkness is as light with you.

Although Gordon had difficulty recognizing his daughter, he could sing hymns in harmony. One day in late November, while Lindow and her sister were helping their dad use the bathroom, the door lock broke, trapping them inside. They called a handyman to come and remove the door from its hinges. Lindow held her dad’s hands while they waited, and began to sing “O Come All Ye Faithful.” Gordon, eyes fixed on his knees, picked up the harmony, but Lindow fell quiet, unable to continue through the song. As she stopped, her father’s eyes lifted, his gaze fixed on his daughter’s face. “Oh, Liz. I love you so much,” he said. “Thank you so much for coming. You’re just such a blessing to me.”

Twenty-four hours later, Gordon fell into a coma. Two days after that, Lindow placed her hand atop his chest, surrounded by family, and felt her father’s heart pulse for the last time. Lindow says, “Grace surrounds everything. . . in packages that look good, and. . . in packages that don’t. I still feel blinded by the mystery of suffering, but I am beginning to see how Jesus is working things out.”

Over three hundred people attended Gordon’s funeral. They filled the overflow room in the church, remembering and honoring his kind, humble spirit. In mid-December, Lindow moved back to her home in Denver, reunited with Tim, and learned that her time at the fintech company was over.

In the following months, Lindow’s grief struck deep. She realized that the best thing she had thus far accomplished with her life wasn’t starting a business, working in Rwanda, or striving for senior leadership. It was giving up her career and, in the name of love, caring for her dad in the last days of his life.

Amid the anxiety and uncertainty of caring for Gordon, Lindow recalls, “Somehow it got through my thick skull that I was indeed loved.” This knowledge rewired her motivations and the way she approached the rest of her life. She realized she didn’t have to work for the admiration of others anymore. Now, her reason to invest in others came from a place of already being worthy.

In mid February 2020, Liz and Tim returned to their house in Denver after breakfast to find a voicemail from a county representative in the foster system. Hours earlier, Lindow had told her husband that she wanted to care for a foster baby, after having previously fostered an 11 year old. The representative on the voicemail was calling to ask if they would take in a baby boy. Lindow called back and three hours later, she was holding the infant in her arms.

In the first week, the baby wailed anxiously at the unfamiliar faces. He needed constant reassurance. Liz and Tim barely slept, but that didn’t matter to her. “No matter how tired she was,” Tim recalled, “her face showed pure joy.” After two weeks, the panic on the baby’s face faded. Now he loves Lindow and knows her voice. When he senses she’s in the room, he cranes his small, round head to look for her face.

Lindow once wanted to shape and lead influential, high-ranking institutions for Christ. “I still do,” she says, smiling. But she no longer feels like she’s racing to meet her own metrics of success or to earn approval from others. Gordon’s illness and passing left Lindow with a truer motivation for her current work in the institution of America’s foster care system. “Being able to be a vessel of God’s love to the most vulnerable in our society is a way I honor the legacy of love my dad passed on to me,” she says. “The love of God that I now rest in.”

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