When you hear the phrase “Human Trafficking”, what comes to mind? (I think of Liam Neeson, coming to the rescue just in the knick of time.) But in real life, Liam is nowhere to be found. Human trafficking is a living, breathing epidemic that is stealing the youth and lives of young girls everywhere. And not just overseas, in our own backyards, too. Yet, most of us don’t know much about it. At least, admittedly, we didn’t. Until we met Karla Graves.
We found Karla and her company Three Little Warriors and quickly became HUGE fans of both. Three Little Warriors is an artist-made kid’s clothing line created to provide survivors of human trafficking a place of work & freedom. Karla has taken her passion of design and turned it into a purpose-driven life that creates a positive space for others to thrive. We are in complete awe of and inspired by her, and are so humbled that she accepted the offer to be our Mom-of-the-Month.
January is Human Trafficking Awareness month, so what better time to shine a light on this topic and introduce you to an AH-MAZING woman, mama, business owner and visionary, who has made it her life’s mission to support these victims. The young girls being pulled into this inhumane lifestyle think it’s the only option for them; there’s no way out. Until people like Karla show up to give them hope, and a torch to light the path to their new life.
Your Milk Shoppe
How did you become involved in the mission of supporting victims of human trafficking?
Five years ago, my husband and I visited a church in Charleston where the guest speaker that day happened to be Christine Caine, Founder of the A21 Campaign. The A21 Campaign is a non-profit organization who believes that together, we can end human trafficking. Christine Caine shared her life story and what her organization is about and that night I felt God light a fire in my heart.
I had never heard of human trafficking before… (well, I had, just not in modern day times.) From then on I just couldn’t get human trafficking out of my mind. I researched about it and the more I learned, the smaller I felt. I was only one person. What could I really do about it? I went to art school but I failed out. I never got a degree in anything. I was a stay-at-home mom with no real work experience. What could I really do?
We ended up leaving Charleston, where we originally heard Christine Caine speak, and moved to Birmingham. Once in Birmingham God began a work in our life and led us to Church of The Highlands, an amazing church that literally specializes in helping you connect your God-Given gifts to a purpose filled life. They encouraged me to join a small group and there was a human trafficking awareness group that caught my eye. I joined and it was during one of our meetings I learned about the huge number of women that even after being rescued from sex slavery end up choosing to go back.
I couldn’t believe it. How could they go back??
It turns out that in the process of getting them to do the things they are forced to do, these women are beat down to believe doing those things are all they will ever do. That they have no talents, no gifts & that is all they will ever be in life. Beautifully enough, our pastor was currently teaching about the power of DREAMING BIG and that’s when I thought- “THAT’S MY IN! That’s where I fit in!”
Maybe I could create a place where survivors of sex & human trafficking have the ability to earn a fair wage while learning what their God given gifts are! And find freedom in it all! A place that would give these women a way for them provide for themselves in a life giving environment so they never feel the need to go back from that which they were rescued from.
I didn’t know the details, I just knew God made me to love art. So I committed to pray about it until one day I learned how to design fabrics using my art, and that day (after three years of prayer) God whispered, “ok, love. It is time.”
What do you love most about Three Little Warriors?
I think the thing I love the most, that I continue to be amazed by, is how I can do what I love to do, which is being creative, and through that make a difference in people’s lives. Growing up I had this idea that you had to somehow suffer to truly make an impact. Leave it all behind and move to Africa and live in poverty to truly be able to touch people’s lives. You hear of amazing people that have done that and think, wow, that’s beautiful, but is that what I have to do? And while all of that is so wonderful and so admirable, God has gifted us with amazing gifts that in and of themselves can change the world right now. Right from our home, right where we are, using the gifts and talents that already come natural to us.
Pants feature artwork by Natalie Gravois
If you would have told me years ago that I could impact someone’s life by drawing, or painting, or making children’s clothes- that those things that I just do for fun, in my spare time, could help women come out of cycle of slavery, I am not sure if I would’ve believed you. That’s the beauty of it- that the gifts we already have, right now, that we were born with- the things we enjoy so much we just do it for fun- those are the things that God gave us to change and impact the world. We don’t have to suffer, leave it all behind and live in a dirt hut to change someone’s lives (unless that is what God is calling you to do and you have a passion for that), but if not, it’s just a matter of connecting what you already love to do and asking God what to do with that.
I am amazed everyday how everything I am doing within this company is tied to the passions and gifts that He already placed in my heart. And then for every area I am not passionate in, or does not relate to my natural God-Given gifts, how He is providing people who are passionate in those areas to fill those gaps. It’s a beautiful image of the church body, each person having a part that makes it function beautifully as a whole. I am not made to do it all, and there is such freedom in that.
How do you juggle being a wife, mom of 3 young boys, and a small business owner?
Oh this question…. To be honest this was my biggest question and biggest fear as I felt God’s clear voice telling me to go for it and that it was time. I could not comprehend how I could raise three kids, be the wife my husband needed me to be, prioritize him and not just give him my end of day scraps, and also have a successful business that held so much power and significance to so many women’s lives. Just thinking about it all sent me to a place of fear because this dream was HUGE but I knew that first and foremost, my first calling was to be a mother and a wife. I had so much fear. To be honest, everyday leading to this actually happening I struggled with fear… but sweet God kept on whispering, “I will do this,” just take the first step and I will do the rest. And since that day I’ve never looked back.
Pants feature artwork by Lacey Russell & Karla Graves
Business wise, I have to credit it to God. This has been such a God-breathed vision and the blessing and success we’ve seen in such a short time is nothing we ourselves have worked for. From businesses and companies contacting us wanting to work together and carry our pieces to a huge amount of artists writing us interested in being a part, it’s been incredible to see how God is moving people throughout the world to make this vision a reality rather than just a dream in my heart. Being a part of watching him move like that has taught me that when God calls you to do something He will give you the grace for it even if it doesn’t make sense in your mind.
Family wise, seeking guidance before starting this up was huge. The biggest thing we took away from meeting with pastors in our church and successful business owners is that when God calls you to do something, it becomes a family calling. Our pastor said “bring them all in. Don’t compartmentalize what you are doing, bring them in and let them be a part.” So we’ve brought the boys in. They like to draw while I draw and have even come up with their own tee shirt designs we do for fun. We’ve also talked about why we are doing all of this and the beauty of using our gifts for greater things and to help others. Seeing them not only understand that but live out something like that has radically changed our lives. We were also told to have rules to abide by and boundaries from the very start. Like having certain days to work and a set time to stop working.
“It’s a choice” I was told. “There is no balance. You choose to have family time, you choose to have spouse time, you choose for it to not overtake your life.” So we decided that dinner together and family time is a must and we have one full family day a week that we keep sacred and don’t schedule anything else but time to adventure and be with our boys.
As far as my husband and I, we set the rule to ask each other how we are doing and what we can do to improve to keep us in check. We also decided to schedule us time and date nights before saying yes to anything else. Now, even with all of that amazing counsel and decisions we chose to make, there are times I fail miserably. There are times I don’t foresee how much work something is going to take but we have found in every “fail” there is a lesson. There is always a little something that as a family we can take away and my husband is so great at reminding me of that. That- it’s not the end of the world. It doesn’t mean we are not equipped to do what we are doing. It’s simply a learning process, we are in it together, we just learn how to improve and that’s that.
What has been the most surprising aspect of motherhood for you so far?
The most surprising aspect of motherhood has been getting to appreciate and experience everyday things but through a child’s eye. When a child is little, everything is new and wonderful. Plants are new, animals are new, experiences are new. Things you see everyday and may not even notice are the things that create the biggest “ooohs” and “ahhs.”
Like that time we were rushing to meet someone and our (then) 3 yr old passed by a flower pot and exclaimed “WOW!!” over an elephant ear plant. He’d never seen one, and until that day, I had always passed it by. He loved the shape and he loved the colors and once I told him the name, he just giggled and laughed. How can a leaf bring so much joy other than to be seen through a child’s eye. I feel like it is getting a second chance at life- at truly living.
Every single day God pours blessings and simple pleasures all around me, that are literally just for me, in the same way as He pours specific ones just for you. This whole having babies things has made me discover that. It’s reminded me to stop what I am doing more often, stare at my surroundings, notice its beauty and be thankful. It’s amazing how children have such a natural way of doing just that <3
What is the best part of your day? The most challenging?
The best part of my day is post dinner cuddle time. We’ve started this little tradition of “nighttime cuddles couch time” that consists of all of us in our pjs, watching a show together while the boys take turns sitting on daddy’s lap. It’s an all boys household so our shows typically consist of superheroes battling each other, AFV or documentaries about the life of sharks. I love it because it marks the beginning of our day’s relax time. The older the kids get, the more responsibilities each of them each have. Having a set time where we all stop and wind down together gives us all something to look forward to, helps us be intentional with them, bond over the latest superhero episode and just relax.
My most challenging time of the day would be the morning. This is the first year where all the kiddos are in school and I have found that making breakfast for 5 and packing snacks and lunch for 4 all at once is something I have yet to get used to. We have established some little “cheats” that help with this, but just like having one child seemed hard at first but now I have three, the beauty of motherhood is that we learn to adapt over time and for whatever we fail to do, there is always grace.
As moms, we are ALWAYS looking for ways to make life a little easier. What’s your best “mom-cheat”?
Canvas Shoe Organizer over pantry door for snacks. Having three boys, we may hear “I’m hungry” over and over, especially during the summer months. Being tired of preparing so many meals and snacks, we placed a canvas shoe organizer over the pantry door and take a day every two weeks to divide snacks. Each slot gets a day’s worth of snacks and each row gets assigned to a child. We love it because the rows go pretty low, giving our little ones access to their snacks, whereas the pantry shelves require help from us to reach as well as figure out how much they can have.
Every two weeks, the organizer gets refilled and the kids are responsible for dividing the snacks out into ziplock baggies and in the mornings they have also been given the responsibility to pack their snacks into their lunch bag. It’s helped me so much because I’m not having to prepare food 25 times per day, between all the meals and snacks, and it also gives them responsibility as they learn about food preparation and portion size.
What one word would you use to describe each of your sons personalities?
Our Oldest is a Leader. Our Middle is an Adventurer. Our Youngest is Joyful.
What was your recharge before kids, and what is it now?
I loved painting before having kids. I would paint for 8+ hours often finding myself staring at a clock that read 3am when I thought only 10 minutes had passed. I don’t paint quite as often anymore, some has to do with time as I can no longer paint into wee hours of night, but a lot has to do with finding new loves, like photography and interior design. Photographing adventures and writing stories about our days has become a new passion. And of course there is my borderline unhealthy obsession with interior design. I just like to create. Creating anything, whether it’s a photograph that tells a story or turning an artist’s artwork into wearable usable textile design gives me such a recharge.
Pants feature artwork by Natalie Gravois
If you could pick one piece of advice to share with new mamas, what would it be?
Have grace with yourself. We mommas can be so hard on ourselves. We worry about our babies, worry about our husband, worry about the future, worry if we just did something or reacted in some way that will permanently scar our child. You name it, we worry about it and I think often times we forget that God is in control and there is a special grace for us moms. I don’t think having more children necessarily gets easier, as in the child itself, I think it gets easier because we just learn to not fret the small stuff and relax. I worried so much about our first and I literally had no idea how people kept having children past one. Then came two and the second baby wasn’t different, we were different.
So my biggest advice is, have grace with yourself. You will get it, and for the times that you don’t, it’s ok, we have all been there, there is no perfect mama and God has a special grace for you.
For more information on how to help end human trafficking, please visit A21 Campaign: http://www.a21.org.