On September 6, 1963, Carolyn Renee Hayden-Garner began her life’s journey. At the age of 3 weeks old, her biological mother, Gloria Dean Smith-Cunningham, recognized that she could not care for a 7th child. Realizing this, she made the difficult yet selfless decision to gift Carolyn to Jeff and Cassiel Hayden. Carolyn was a gift that they had prayed for throughout their marriage.
Carolyn came from humble beginnings. Despite having middle school educations and no financial wealth, her parents still provided Carolyn with all of her needs through faith and hard work. Carolyn’s upbringing gave her an ingrained desire to be a follower and doer of God’s word. It taught her to serve others, to live abundantly, and the importance of hard work. Her mother was a fervent prayer warrior. Daily, Mother Hayden could be found in her prayer closet pleading the blood of Jesus over her home and devoutly over Carolyn. By doing this, she gave her daughter the greatest gift, a steadfast prayer life.
Carolyn was reared in the Church of God in Christ. Growing up, she was very active in her church as a member of the choir, sunshine band, and young people’s willing workers. At the age of 15, she taught her first lesson (sermonette) during the 11 a.m. morning service at the Power House COGIC entitled “Come Out of That Hog Pen,” based upon Luke 15: 11-32.
In 1981, she graduated from Central High School. Wanting a fresh start, Carolyn began her college journey at Grambling State University, where she knew no one. While at GSU, her faith in God was tested, and although she sometimes strayed, she always returned to God’s word. During her time at GSU, Carolyn remained active on campus, running for Student Government Vice President, pledging Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., becoming President of Alpha Kappa Mu Honor Society, and serving as a tutor in Accounting. After graduating Magna Cum Laude in 1985 with her Bachelor of Science in Accounting, she later received her Master’s degree from Dallas Baptist University. Since starting her career, Carolyn has excelled in Corporate America. Today, major corporations seek her out to implement systems, increase operating efficiencies, and build teams.
In November of 1986, Carolyn married her college sweetheart, Thomas Guy Garner. God gave them two children, Thomas Hayden Garner (Taylor) and Cassie Renee Garner, and in 2019, God blessed them with a bonus daughter, Lauryn Danielle Keahey. In May 2020, God gifted them a grandchild, Paxton Hayden Garner. Indeed, life in the Garner household hasn’t always been a crystal staircase; roads have been challenging, seasons have been long, and there have been many times where Carolyn found herself fasting and praying for major breakthroughs. Yet, she is still standing today because of her faith, transparency, tears, and utter resilience. Her family is stronger than ever.
Carolyn is no stranger to service and giving. She has sown into the lives of countless people. Creating Mothers Shut In was yet another way she could pour into others and impact lives. The Mothers Shut In is a ministry that has evolved throughout Carolyn’s journey. She truly believes that no matter what tomorrow may bring, a mother who stays before the Lord in prayer, places reliance on the word of God, seeks Him in all things, and is not afraid of failure, will always win.