In spring of 2022, while talking with a close mentor friend of mine, she mentioned she once opened an Esty shop to supplement her income while she underwent chemo. Later that October, as I sat in the hospital for one of multiple two-week stints fighting Cystic Fibrosis, a rare and life-threatening lung disease I was born with and have been on Disability since 2019 because of, I began daydreaming about how I might do the same.

Most who know me are aware I’m an unashamed office supply geek — My husband, Zack, has zero problems turning me loose at a shopping mall, but thinks twice before leaving me unmanned inside Staples — But a much lesser known fact about me is that one of my very favorite things is a trusty stone paper journal. One afternoon, I had the fleeting question of how likely it would be that I could learn to create more personal and meaningful covers for them, and learn to recover them myself for friends and family. Once I had researched some, and realized it was not only possible, but probable, I started putting together a list of things I needed to get started… And a month later, I released our first greeting card designs for purchase on my personal Facebook page.

Cystic Fibrosis, or CF, is a genetic, life-threatening illness that primarily destroys the lungs and digestive system over time. It’s a recessive trait illness, passed down from a faulty gene from both the mother and father, and is not contagious or harmful in any way to the general population. When I was born in 1983, my parents were told I would not live to the age of 8. Zack’s, in 1986, were told 18. But our God had other plans for us! There are currently multiple treatments for CF, as well as a particularly remarkable drug that’s the first of its kind to treat the genetic cause instead of simply targeting the symptoms. But there is no cure for CF, and although the average life expectancy has jumped significantly since we were diagnosed, it’s still only 51.

Stone paper, sometimes also referred to as rock paper or mineral paper, is different from the paper you’re accustomed to in that it’s made of limestone instead of wood pulp. This gives it unique qualities such as a velvety smooth texture (I often say it’s “like writing on butter”), as well as water and tear resistance. It is also rumored to be more economically-friendly, as it doesn’t damage anything living to create.

My personal favorites are ball points. The writing is smooth, clear, and rich. Gel pens, in my experience, tend to skip on the pages and take a long time to dry, if they fully do at all. Highlighters also take a while to dry, so I always recommend writing everything you need to first, then going back and highlighting when you have a few minutes to let it sit.

My absolute favorite pens, that have translated so well from wood pulp to stone paper, are BIC Ecolutions Ocean-Bound medium ball points in blue or black ink; and for highlighters, my go-tos are these Sharpie Clear View Highlighter Sticks. (Not affiliate links. Just super high recommendations!)

At this time, it’s not possible to purchase loose leaf stone paper, unless I source it from one of its original locations in Lithuania or Sweden. So, the alternative is to buy the pre-assembled notebooks by Oxford from Amazon, disassemble them, and reassemble them with my covers and bindings. Currently, a pack of two journals costs just over $15, so the paper alone is almost $8 per journal, plus everything else to create them. Additionally, everything is truly handcrafted, which takes time!

Right here on our secure website! Should you have any issues while placing your order, please reach out and let us know, and we’ll get on debugging it as fast as we can.

At this time, we only have a handful of items that are customizable. As our collection grows, they’ll be made available here! We also take artistic commissions for orders of 25+.

As understandably inconvenient as some may find it, Breath of Life Handmade is currently a home-based, husband-and-wife only duo gig, where we live up to the name “handmade” in every stretch of the imagination. Additionally, we battle the uncertainties of daily living with chronic illness. So we have found that realistically, the turnaround time for creating orders is 3-5 days, and we always contact the buyer in full transparency if we see it’s going to be longer.

That’s honestly up to you. We prefer to use USPS Priority Mail because of their reasonable rates and their history of having packages, even clear across the country, delivered within 2-3 days. However, we strive to make sure you always have a more cost effective, albeit slightly longer, option, should you choose.

Absolutely! If you live and/or work within the Lindale/Tyler proper area, we are more than happy to schedule a meet up to hand off your order to save you shipping time and cost.

Breath of Life Handmade is home-based, so we don’t feel comfortable giving out our actual address on the internet. We have no problem sharing though that we are out of Lindale, Texas 🙂

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    Chayil | Proverbs 31

    Chayil. (Khah’yil.)

    The first time I heard this beautiful Hebrew word in April of 2014, something about it resonated deep within me. As a baby conceived with Cystic Fibrosis – a life-threatening genetic illness that pegged my life expectancy at around 8 years old – I was, quite literally, born a fighter. However, CF was only the first of many fires awaiting me in this lifetime, and as a result, I spent the better part of ten years self-destructing in every way imaginable, determined that if I was going to die young, I was going to have a heck of a time doing it.

    So when I was introduced to the marrow of chayil while deep in the trenches of my rock bottom… And I learned the black and white of it to be “excellence” and “valor”… My shame and unbelief found it easy to shrug off.

    What I failed to understand then was that chayil isn’t something we muster up on our own. It knows no separation from, and is entirely dependent upon, our relationship with our Abba. And in time, we learn that to be a woman of chayil is to be a woman of innately-driven excellence. Strength. Beauty. And honor.

    It is quiet courage and confidence that knows it doesn’t have to roar to make a difference, or shove its way into the spotlight to be heralded.

    It is borne in the hard and holy and hidden places of our hearts. Places that are steeped in the value of being before doing, and that understand why Jesus promised that Mary held the better portion.

    It is fully recognizing that we hold both the sword and its victory in our hands, yet still kneeling before Him and asking Him how to wield it.

    It is a war cry, a desperate reminder of who and whose we are when the fight in front of us feels too big… Because most of the time, it is. And we should never be ashamed to admit we don’t have what it takes without Him.

    It’s bold. It’s counter-cultural. It’s often mistaken for weakness, and almost always viewed as insane.

    But that’s OK. So was our Jesus.

    The essence of chayil is most often depicted as a fierce warrior woman. If I’m honest, that’s what I had in mind myself when I sat down to render this image. But as it began to come more and more alive, I realized He was driving home the heart of where our excellence, courage, and strength truly come from: Our union with Him.

    Daughter of God, if this all seems intimidating to you, take heart, because you were made for this. The walk of a godly woman isn’t easy… It goes against every societal norm we’re taught, it draws mockers and critics, it costs us close friendships, and it consistently forces us to shed our comfort zones and step into the unknown, where tensions can be high but our Greatest Prize is higher. And by His grace, we come to realize we have nothing to fear. Because we’ve been bought with a price and adopted into His army to overcome lies with Truth, fear with faith, hatred with hospitality, and bitter with forgive. We weren’t made to give the world a piece of our minds, but a piece of His heart. And we were created to help heal, and leave this world that we’re in, but not of, in better shape than we found it.

    Expect difficulties. Expect attacks. Expect setbacks, to be sure.

    But more importantly, expect victory. Expect freedom. And expect to know the love and companionship of the God of the universe… Who is somehow also our personal Lord and Savior… Who is somehow also our Father who bends low to hear His children cry… So deeply that we shine His radiance from the inside out.

    It will feel impossible at times, but that’s why He made us warriors.

    That’s why He made us women of chayil.

    © Farrel DeBaltzo | January 3, 2023

    Love > Fear

    There are two diametrically opposed choices we’re faced with every day, multiple times a day, as human beings: Life and Death.

    They are driven by two diametrically opposed forces: Love and Fear.

    And of them are borne two diametrically opposed realities: Light and Darkness.

    They can not co-exist. We live from one or the other.

    The Greek word for “casts out” here is “ballō”, and it does not convey fear as a worthy adversary that love gently tells to bugger off. It is much more fierce, painting fear out to be worthless and a waste of time and energy. Other Scripture where this context is used is Matthew 5, when Jesus says salt that has lost its saltiness has no other fate than to tread underfoot and be thrown out; Matthew 13 when it describes fishermen sifting through their catch and throwing away the foul ones; and John 15 when Jesus invites His followers to abide in Him continuously, warning that those who refuse to will be like branches that wither and are thrown into the fire — Not as a threat, but a very real picture of what happens when we choose to cut ourselves off from Life Himself.

    Fear appears daunting to us, but it doesn’t have to be. And notice it doesn’t say “authority” casts out fear, but “perfect love”. When we fix our eyes on the beauty of all Jesus is, all He has done, and all the love that drove Him to do so, there is no other logical result than for fear to disintegrate before our very hearts and eyes. He always does the heavy lifting.

    There are certainly times in our human frailty when we will stumble. But at the end of the day, and the end of all days, the core of our beliefs and allegiance belongs to one or the other.

    May we all who bear His name today choose Love, choose Light, and choose LIFE ♥♥♥

    © Farrel DeBaltzo | April 4, 2024

    Home

    I grew up right outside of Lindale, Texas in blink-and-you-miss-it Garden Valley. When Dad had to leave, Mom and I relocated to a rent house her father owned in Tyler, where I spent years 10 through 20.

    At age 21, I hightailed it as fast as I could out of East Texas and to Dallas, then across the country to Washington State, then back to the Dallas/Fort Worth area, then across the country in the other direction to Florida, before finally ending up back in Tyler in 2017 — A place I swore to my love, my friends, my family, and even my God I would never, ever, under any circumstances return to.

    I imagine that gave Him a pretty good chuckle, considering He knew what sovereign plan He had in store for me. In His perfect grace, He let me run for a long time — 13 years, to be exact — because only He knew exactly when I would be ready to tackle my past, piece by piece, and heal from it.

    And now… Just about the time I’d finally gotten used to being back in Tyler… Here Zack and I are, plunked back down in Lindale, in a home where our route in and out of civilization takes us directly through downtown. Past the old post office I reference in Love You More Than Life: A Memoir. The post office where I used to go with Dad every couple of days to check his business box. The post office that, if I had words for it, I could still describe exactly how it smelled inside. Past the brick corner store, now a guitar and gun shop, that once housed Rexall Drugs and filled my Cystic Fibrosis prescriptions as a baby. Past First Baptist Church, where I was dedicated as a newborn. Past all of the places and memories and emotions still sailor-knot-tied to a ranch and a home where another family lives and whose kiddos now play.

    There is no such thing as coincidence.

    Especially when it comes to redemption.

    Coming home — really, truly coming home in every sense of the word — is both comforting and uncomfortable. Familiar in the best and the worst ways. Messy. Confrontational. And, in the end, utterly freeing.

    Because nothing, nowhere, and No One knows you like home ♥

    © Farrel DeBaltzo | February 19, 2024