Books & Articles


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

My wife Maile and I are always talking about how important whimsy and playfulness are when it comes to writing and creativity, so when I saw the subtitle of Ellis’s book, I couldn’t help but smile: ‘Let playfulness lift your load and and renew your spirit’? Yes, please. As a firstborn child who holds seriousness in high regard, I need the freeing and joyful message, and playful applications, this book has to offer. But don’t we all? 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

Happy Now offers a much-needed deep breath of fresh air and light. Whatever extraordinary challenges you have faced in the past two years–illness or financial crisis, loss of a loved one or a clinical anxiety diagnosis–introducing playfulness into your life is bound to be soul medicine of the best, most accessible kind. Let Courtney coach you into a life space punctuated by moments of joy rather than stress and exhaustion, inspired by the playful God who created us in his own image. In order to thrive in our overly serious culture, creating a lifestyle of playfulness is not just a nicety–it’s a requirement.

—Harmony Harkema, Writer, Editor, Speaker & Writing Coach

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

This book is brilliant! Deep, light, entertaining and practical. It is truly an invitation into a more joyful and God-filled way of life. 

–Anna Woofenden, author of This is God’s Table

With Happy Now, Courtney Ellis demonstrates that taking God seriously means embracing the possibility for delight—and sheer fun—he placed in our hearts. Absorbing this wonderful book, I kept asking how the church might look and live if we believed Ellis’ words. What if they knew we were Christians by our play? Read on and catch the vision. 

—Aarik Danielsen, Fathom Magazine columnist

Can you imagine God playing? What about dancing, singing, and laughing–with you? During times of suffering, we need God’s smile more than ever. Faithful, encouraging, hilarious, and heartfelt, Happy Now reminds you that playfulness can be holiness .

–Catherine McNiel, author of All Shall Be Well 

A witty and wise guide, Courtney Ellis urges us to consider the positive influence of play on our mental, emotional, and spiritual health. With self-deprecating humor, she artfully welcomes those of us paralyzed by seriousness to embrace whimsy and delight.

–Leslie Verner, author of Invited: The Power of Hospitality in an Age of Loneliness

Courtney has the gift of taking subjects in which I don’t naturally excel (motherhood, uncluttering, playing) and showing me how to do them both on purpose and with purpose. Happy Now is a field guide for the journey of learning to play, written by a funny friend who keeps it real while maintaining a pastor’s focus of what actually is real. God wants us to enjoy our lives, and Courtney gives us a thoughtful exploration of how to do so. 

-Rebecca Cochran, co-host of The Woven Podcast 

Courtney has done it again! In her third book, she returns with her combination of humor and humility, to share with her readers a personal struggle, how she overcame it with God’s help while at the same time making a very personal struggle relatable to everyone whether they are in her same boat or not. As someone who struggles with productivity over playfulness, I’m thankful for Courtney’s gentle encouragement and practical advice on how to renew my spirit through play.

–Rebecca Peet, Co-Host of the Woven Podcast, Certified Enneagram Coach

Happy Now is a gorgeous, imaginative, and liberating reminder that God is not only concerned with our holiness but with our enjoyment of him and his good gifts. Courtney demonstrates how playfulness enriches us soul, mind, body, and spirit.

— Alicia Akins, author Invitations to Abundance

Courtney Ellis does it again! Happy Now: Let the Power of Playfulness Lift Your Load & Renew Your Spirit is equal parts hilarity, honesty and holy invitation. Her antics at a twenty-two dollar spin class will make you cringe and laugh out loud at the same time – after all, Ellis relishes in making real  the everyday messiness and joy of her life, while simultaneously daring the reader to join the God of playfulness in the greatest “yes …and” of all. 

-Cara Meredith, author of The Color of Life

With humor and grace Courtney Ellis reminds us in Happy Now that God uses playfulness in our lives to enrich our faith in Christ and deepen our relationships with others.

–Kristine Aragon Bruce, Associate Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Grand Haven

Happy Now is a delightful exploration of the transformative power of playfulness. Courtney’s accessible invitations give permission to have fun, get silly, and enter into the abundant freedom God desires for you. 

–Stephanie Jenkins, Field Guides for the Way 

Once again, Courtney Ellis has yanked back the curtain we so often erect between the sacred and mundane. With a spirit of whimsy, she beckons the reader to join her on an adventure of playfulness, insisting that God is present in the giggles and gaffes. Ellis serves as a trusted guide on the road to happiness, accompanying the reader through the intersections of Scripture, psychology, and humor. If you are weary and worn, Happy Now will lead you to the One who restores and refreshes through the gift of play.

— Stephanie Lobdell, author, Signs of Life: Resurrecting Hope out of Ordinary Losses

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.


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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“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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