Books & Articles

Present: the Gift of Being All In, Right Where You Are (March 2023, Tyndale House). Foreword by Aarik Danielsen.

Present was a book that found me. After years of transience (at one point Daryl and I moved six times in six years… I do NOT recommend this), we wanted to grow deep roots. When a guest preacher talked about the spiritual practice of stability, my mind lit up like a Christmas tree. Stability was a spiritual practice?! Who knew?

I’d heard countless sermons about leaving hearth and home to follow Jesus. I’d witnessed dozens of pastors and mission partners trumpet following Jesus wherever he led. But never in my many years in the pews had I heard anyone speak about God’s call to STAY.

Suddenly, I saw it all over the pages of Scripture. Ruth’s pledge to remain with her mother-in-law, Naomi. Peter’s call to minister to the Gentiles in his own backyard. The house churches of Acts.

We can struggle not to be a people of rootlessness and discontent. Plus, not all motion is chosen–we live in a world of exiles and refugees. But the heart of the Gospel is God’s call to each of us to come home and to find a home with one another in God.

Present is a story of finding God through the blessing of stability, the grace of limits, and the joy of presence. It’s funny in places, because life is funny. It’s soaked in Scripture. But most of all it’s an invitation from my heart to yours to bloom where you’re planted for however long God calls you there.


Happy Now: Let Playfulness Lift Your Load and Renew Your Spirit (August 1, 2021, Tyndale House Publishing).

Foreword by Marlena Graves.

Happy Now: Let the Power of Play Lift Your Load and Renew Your Spirit is a rollicking, investigative, and thoughtful invitation to open ourselves to the joy and freedom of play all over again. It is designed to invite readers to let go of their most serious selves, grant them permission to engage in curiosity and wonder of all kinds, and delight in the release of its transformative effects: creativity, innovation, delight, rest, and—above all—a more trusting relationship with Jesus.
Through wry observations, first hand experience, Scriptural study, and broad research, Courtney Ellis addresses questions like: How does God invite us into play? What does it mean that we are created for curiosity? In what ways can wonder help us love our neighbors more fully?
The world can be a serious place. Because of Jesus, Christians don’t need to be.
Dive deeply into the waters of whimsy, embracing the joy God offers. Sometimes that looks like welcoming holy laughter. Other times it’s learning to see mistakes as learning and innovation rather than mess-making. Play brings about transformation and rest and praise. And isn’t that just the reason God created us?
It’s time to get serious about playfulness!

Order Happy Now: Let Playfulness Lift Your Load and Renew Your Spirit anywhere books are sold, including Amazon, Tyndale House, Barnes and Noble, Christian Book, Walmart, Books-a-Million, Indiebound, or Hendrickson Rose. (It’s on Audible and Kindle, too!)

Praise for Happy Now

Courtney Ellis offers a rare, timely combination of sound theology, personal transparency, accessible style, and sharp wit. The world needs more writers like Courtney, and readers need more books by her.

 –Karen Swallow Prior, author of On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books

Seriousness has taken over our lives in the form of somber religion, stern politics, and pessimistic outlooks. Ellis’s book arrives at just the right time, and her kind and easygoing voice make this book a joy to read, the first step on the road to a more creative, whimsical, and playful life.

– Shawn Smucker, author of The Weight of Memory

I’m afraid that serious, humorless grown-ups like me won’t immediately think they need this book. But they would be wrong. This book breathes fresh air into stale, windowless lives ever committed to hustle and hard work. With warm and witty storytelling, Courtney Ellis leads us into the good news of the kingdom—that it’s a playful, joyful place. What a gift her words are, especially for dark and difficult days.

—Jen Pollock Michel, award-winning author of Surprised by Paradox and A Habit Called Faith.

This isn’t a book to read for mere intellectual satisfaction. It is a book whose principles I plan to further incorporate into my own life and into the life of my family. Let us follow in Courtney’s footsteps as she follows in Jesus’s footsteps. 

–Marlena Graves, author of The Way Up is Down: Becoming Yourself by Forgetting Yourself

Jesus said that the way of faith is becoming like a child, and in Happy Now Courtney Ellis shows us how. Through honesty, wisdom, and humor, Ellis invites us to practice the healing, renewing posture of playfulness. Maybe faith actually was always meant to include fun.

—K.J. Ramsey, licensed professional counselor and author of This Too Shall Last: Finding Grace When Suffering Lingers

What if they knew we were Christians by our play? Read on and catch the vision. 

—Aarik Danielsen, Fathom Magazine columnist

9781628627909-4200X_AlmostHoly cover_092118

Almost Holy Mama: Life-Giving Spiritual Practices for Weary Parents (June 3, 2019, Rose Publishing).

With the honesty of a close friend, the hilarity of a late-night comic, and the humility of a mom up to her eyeballs in diapers and dishes, Courtney Ellis invites us on a journey to draw closer God amidst the joyful, mundane, exhausting days of young parenthood. Probing ancient Christian practices for renewal, Almost Holy Mama chronicles one mom’s quest to discover an answer to her most pressing question: can God use the crucible of parenthood to grow us in virtue?

Instead of adding more tasks, Almost Holy Mama will help you integrate your spiritual practices into your daily life. From studying Scripture in the shower to listening in prayer at the foot of Laundry Mountain to being forced into the discipline of stillness by a rough pregnancy, Ellis finds that meeting God in sacred disciplines can breathe new life into one of life s most joy-filled and trying seasons.

Available now from Amazon, Christian Book, Barnes and Noble, Hendrickson Rose, or anywhere books are sold.

Praise for Almost Holy

“Courtney Ellis reminds us that we are held in grace. I’m grateful for the reminder.” –Micha Boyett, author of Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer 

“Eavesdrop on Courtney Ellis’s year-long experiment with practicing the classic spiritual disciplines while driving, changing diapers, and managing bedtime, and you just might be inspired to do the same!” —Catherine McNiel, author of Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline

“Almost Holy Mama is an encouraging guide for parents who want to draw close to Jesus during one of life’s busiest and most exhausting seasons. ” —Jana Alayra, singer, songwriter, and worship leader

“What a gift this book is for parents, for families, and for the churches they belong to.” —Ryan Hamm, senior writer at Open Doors USA, former managing editor of RELEVANT magazine

“Courtney Ellis is a relatable guide to your Lego-strewn journey with Jesus through the challenging early years of parenting.” —Michelle Van Loon, author of Born to Wander

“Almost Holy Mama is full of grace, humor, and a relentless desire to grow in holiness—not to prove ourselves to God but to learn again how to live as little children. It’s a message we all need.” —Ashley Hales, author of Finding Holy in the Suburbs   

“Courtney Ellis gives us a graceful glimpse into how these Christian disciplines can find a place in our twenty-first-century, everyday lives. It’s a practical, rich, insightful guide.” —Shawn Smucker, author of Once We Were Strangers

“Combining good humor with deep, practical wisdom, Almost Holy Mama is a rare accomplishment. Courtney Ellis comes alongside us as both the mentor that we weary parents long for and the friend that we need.” —Chris Blumhofer, professor of New Testament, Fuller Seminary

“Courtney Ellis reminds us of two things simultaneously: that the spiritual disciplines are serious business, and that there’s no reason we can’t have a holy sense of humor about our occasionally stumbling attempts to practice them.” —Kevin McLenithan, film critic, and cohost of the Seeing and Believing podcast

“This book is what tired mamas like me have been looking for: how we find God in the lives we inhabit (not the ones we used to have or might have ten years from now). I can’t wait to share this book with my congregation and mom friends.” —Elizabeth Hagan, author of Birthed: Finding Grace through Infertility

“In Almost Holy Mama, Courtney Ellis offers hope for the always overextended mom to forge a deeper relationship with God.” —Harmony Harkema, founder and editor, The Glorious Table

Uncluttered Courtney Ellis

Uncluttered: Free Your Space, Free Your Schedule, Free Your Soul (February 2019, Rose Publishing).

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the “too muchness” of it all? Realizing that piles of possessions, an overfilled calendar, and digital addictions threatened not only my happiness but my very soul, Uncluttered chronicles my pursuit of a radical idea: what if less really is more?

If you’ve ever desired a simpler life, one filled with love, laughter, friendship, and worship rather than overflowing closets and overfilled hours, look no further.

Uncluttered is available from Amazon, Christian Book, Barnes and Noble, Hendrickson Rose, or wherever books are sold. You can read the first chapter here.

Praise for Uncluttered

“Peace. Less. Still. Enough. Simple. Clear. Rested. Read Uncluttered.” –John Ortberg, senior pastor of Menlo Church and author of I’d Like You More if You Were More Like Me

“The key to healthy, sustainable, contagious faith is our commitment to living simpler, quieter, more uncluttered lives. This is the urgent and soul-nourishing message of Uncluttered.” –Brett McCracken, senior editor at The Gospel Coalition

“With disarming candor, sly humor and the empathy of the pastor and spiritual counselor that she is, Courtney Ellis has given us a gift.” –Tod Bolsinger, Vice President & Chief of Leadership Formation, Fuller Seminary

“In Uncluttered Courtney Ellis does what our productivity-obsessed culture tells us is impossible: unplugs from the unnecessary demands of life and plugs in to God and relationships that matter.” –Nicole Caldwell-Gross, Pastor at St.Luke’s (UMC)

“A practical and profound work, tailor-made for this era of noise and busyness.” –Dorcas Cheng-Tozun, author of Start, Love, Repeat: How to Stay in Love with Your Entrepreneur 

“Uncluttered is somehow raw, relatable and hilarious, all at the same time.” –Cara Meredith, author of The Color of Life: A White Woman’s Journey Toward Love and Justice

In the studio recording the audiobook for Happy Now.


Bee My Valentine: A Saint’s Guide to Creation Care.” – Christianity Today, 2023

The Neighborhood Murder.” – Fathom Mag, 2023

A Pastor Finds Joy Through the Lenten Practice of Birdwatching.” – National Catholic Reporter, 2022

“True Love Waits to Regather.” – Christianity Today, 2021

How loving our neighbors by following public health guidelines can be an act of beautiful solidarity.

“We do nothing. And somehow, at the end of ourselves, there is Jesus.”  – Fathom Mag, 2020

God’s gracious presence with us in our need.

“How Road Trips Teach Me to Trust Jesus” – Christianity Today, 2019

Finding God along the road.

“Churches That Play Together Stay Together” – Christianity Today, 2019

How having fun can build not just friendships but faithfulness.

“How Single Women Help New Moms Make it Through” – Christianity Today, 2019

Singles need married friends, but married friends are no less in need of singles.

“The Case for an Early Christmas” – Christianity Today, 2018

What if Advent and Christmas didn’t have to be so separate?

“Seen, Heard, and Understood” – (in)courage, 2018

Heartening lessons from the one who went before us.

“Send in the Clowns” – Fathom Mag, 2018

It was her funeral, but was I more concerned with her propriety or my own?

“10 Breastfeeding Wardrobe Hacks” – MOPS International, 2018

How to feed the baby (in style!) without breaking the bank.

“Always Just Enough” – The Glorious Table, 2018

Finding the secret of contentment with a little help from The Greatest Showman.

“Tough and Lasting Kindness” – The Glorious Table, 2018

Childbirth, pain, anguish, and strength.

Quoted in “The Pay Gap is Worst for Pastor-Moms” – Christianity Today, 2017

“Ministry is a Team Sport” – Christianity Today, 2016

Because working for the Lord is never a zero-sum game.

“The Messy Drama and Trauma of New Life” – Christianity Today, 2016

“The body of Christ, broken for you” never made as much sense to me as it did after childbirth.

“10 Things Not to Say to a Postpartum Mom” – The Huffington Post, 2016

I mean, seriously.

“10 Foolproof Ways to Get Your Baby to Sleep” – The Huffington Post, 2016

A little laughter never hurts.

“10 Things Funerals Have Taught this Pastor” – The Mighty, 2016

Grief, mourning, and the particularities of lament.

“How Breastfeeding Brought Me Closer to God” – Christianity Today, 2013

Not everything needs to be hurried.

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Apparently turning into a human fountain is part of the deal?