Blogging in this season of my life is decidedly a chore. I need to find a quiet moment (which usually means getting a sitter since we have 5 amazing children at home). We’re not tech people, so the computer is never charged and hopelessly out of date. And then I have to quiet my mind enough to write when, really, there are so many more pressing things to do at home and work. However, though I’ve grown up in a generation that chooses what to eat, wear and do depending on whether or not it “sparks joy,” chores are a necessary part of life. Posting monthly-ish on this site is my meager goal, and for now, one that I’ll keep. And while it would have been easier to take a mental pass and simply post about the best things to do or eat or buy in Lancaster, today I felt the Lord asking me to share from my heart.
Hospitality. A word that, quite honestly, stirs up a sense of inadequacy inside of me. The dictionary defines it as “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors and strangers.” And while I can set a pretty table, prepare a simple spread of food and provide a tidy space for guests to kick up their feet, I often feel tired by the time it comes to the “entertainment” part. Maybe it’s my season of life, my personality, or just the nature of true hospitality, but it’s not always easy to simultaneously connect with and serve people. I want to have good conversation and then, whoops, the chicken is burning and the 2-year-old just knocked over the water pitcher and the baby is crying and…what were we talking about again? I sigh because this wasn’t how I wanted things to look.
Here’s what I’m learning, though. Hospitality doesn’t have to be a one man show, and it’s always more about the heart and less about appearances. If I stop trying to do it all myself, stop trying to make it “look” a certain way, the joy of hospitality is restored. Enter the good old-fashioned potluck where everyone brings something, and suddenly, there’s time and energy left over for the “entertainment” part. If I add in something store bought, skip the fancy tablescape, and loosen up on my expectations, inviting others in to our home becomes a blessing (though I love fancy tablescapes). I can’t control the spilled water or the crying, but I can enjoy the company. And as my mom says, “food that you didn’t make yourself always tastes better.”
When the Lord called my family into the hospitality industry, I was overwhelmed. Purchasing The Carriage House meant we wouldn’t be providing hospitality to just one couple or family, but many! I looked around and saw tasks and projects at every turn and wondered how we would complete them while learning to run a new business and care for our guests. This all felt like too much. But guess what we’ve learned? The potluck concept applies here, too.
Instead of bringing food, we have a team that brings their gifts together to provide a place for our guests to call “home” in Lancaster County. One has a mind for numbers and finances, another has an eye for design. One brings the large scale vision, another focuses on the details. One quietly weeds and prays over the property, another welcomes guests with enthusiasm and warmth. It’s not a one man show, it’s a group effort, and each contribution is necessary and important. And while we still have plenty of visual improvements to make around the property, our guests are greeted with a genuine “friendly and generous reception” when they walk in the door. Here, too, hospitality is more about the heart and less about appearances.
How have you grown in the area of hospitality? What challenges do you experience as you open your home (or business) to serve others? Have you experienced the beauty of a group effort? What hospitality tips do you have to share below?
My name is Jenna, and I’ll be posting here occasionally, letting you in on bits of our story, updates, and renovations to our property, and tips for traveling while in Strasburg and Lancaster, PA. My husband Jeremy and I purchased The Carriage House a little over a year ago, along with my parents, Kevin and Sharon Adams. In case you’re wondering, none of us ever dreamed of owning a motel, hotel, inn or anything of the sort. So how did we end up here?
For those who love a good backstory…
In June of 2017, Jeremy was browsing local properties and said, “Jenna, I found our dream property.” And while the subsequent photos didn’t look like a dream to me (picture year-round colored Christmas lights glowing across the property and plenty of deferred maintenance), I nodded my head when he said that he and my step-father, Kevin, were going to check it out the next day. When you marry a visionary, many of these ideas just sort of play themselves out. Honestly, I was hoping for that this time around. It didn’t seem like good timing to me—Jeremy was running several businesses, we were homeschooling our small children, and I enjoyed picking up hours as a nurse at a local birthing center. However, the idea of purchasing The Carriage House just took root more deeply by the day. Ultimately, through a process of prayer and surrender, together with my parents, we felt the Lord leading us to step forward into a BIG adventure. We settled on the property August 17, 2017, and welcomed guests that evening.
Contrary to popular belief, we didn’t “shut down” the motel to begin renovations. We closed 4 rooms at a time and scrambled like mad to have them refreshed in 2 weeks. This meant new flooring, paint, furniture, décor, linens and a top-to-bottom cleaning of each room. All while putting out figurative fires, like fixing the leaking roof, taking care of mold and pest issues, and overhauling the old phone, computer and wifi systems. We constantly apologized to our guests for the eyesores and headaches we inherited with the property. It was EXHAUSTING, but as guests began to applaud the changes and our occupancy rates climbed, we were filled with excitement. Shortly after finishing up the rooms, we began renovating the exterior of the motel and the interior of the historic cabin that we purchased with the property, which sits along East Main Street.
In April of 2018 my brother-in-law, Jon Krause, left a 12-year career in banking to join the team at The Carriage House. He and my sister Heather moved to the property and Jon became our on-site manager. Our team was complete. Up until this point Jeremy and my mom, Sharon kept things afloat (along with a few wonderful part-time staff). But, as Jeremy will tell you, he and mom create chaos. This is a good and necessary part of the growing process, unearthing potential and opening up space for creativity and connection. Jeremy brings the big-picture vision and energy, mom brings the heart and hospitality. They are both excellent at interacting with and caring for guests. However, their thoughts bounce from one thing to the next like ping-pong balls, and order, focus, and strategy aren’t strong points for either of them. When Jon entered the scene with his calm presence, mind for numbers, and vision for quality guest service, we all breathed a sigh of relief. Things clicked and we began to hit our stride. With Jon’s guidance, daily operations were running smoothly at The Carriage House. Now, Jeremy was free to be the visionary, mom could share her heart and hospitality with our guests and staff, I could bring beauty and order to our spaces while taking baby steps towards curating “our brand”, and Kevin could focus on the accounting and finances.
So where are we at today?
We’ve enjoyed a thriving summer and fall season, totally revamped our website (yay!!), and made connections in the Strasburg community. In the next few years, we plan to completely renovate the bathrooms and office, expand our amenities, and continue upgrades to the rooms and façades of our outbuildings. There’s so much we still want to do, and some days all we can see is where we want to be, not where we are. Images of staged perfection on Instagram and Pinterest can be so distracting, and we wonder if we measure up. But then we re-center: we’re doing this to create a place for travelers to call “home” for a few days. A welcoming spot with a bit of beauty to foster reconnection and fresh perspective. We want people to feel cared about, to sense the peace that we pray over our property. To leave refreshed, inspired, and encouraged. And I believe we’re succeeding at that!
Shortly after we purchased the Carriage House, Jeremy read the following scripture and it resounded with us:
Job 31:32 “…but no stranger had to spend the night in the street, for my door was always open to the traveler—“
And while we’ve put up the “no vacancy” sign a lot lately, that is our heartbeat. To open our doors to travelers, provide them with a simple, comfortable place to spend the night, and send them on their way with a blessing and a smile.