My stepfamily lives in Weeki Wachee, Florida, home of the mermaids (There is an old roadside theme park down the street that is world famous for its "mermaid" shows) and recently the temporary home of two unwanted visitors: Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne. Both came to visit on separate weekends, leaving swaths of destruction behind them. Broken trees and jagged-edged business signs still line our county.

My husband, our children and stepchildren and I learned quickly that just like the storms in our lives, hurricanes are not a lot of fun, but they actually have some benefits. In the aftermath of the hurricanes I discovered some distinct parallels between Frances, Jeanne, and living in a stepfamily. Frances and Jeanne may not have been welcome, but they shook things up, forcing people to revisit the past, reinforce weak structures, and rebuild what was lost.

That's a lot like what happens in a stepfamily. Birthed from loss, either through divorce or death, stepfamilies often face emotional storms. Stepchildren didn't ask for an "extra" parent. New spouses often don't realize what an "instant family" will really be like. However, stepfamilies can be a powerful testimony to God's ability to redeem and rebuild just like you do after hurricanes.

Here are some lessons I learned:
1. Even with preparation, you are never prepared for big storms.

Storm watchers and meteorologists warned us Floridians for days - weeks, even - about the hurricanes. We were shown news reports of people waiting in lines for gasoline and reminded to stock up on bottles of water, canned goods, and matches. Still, the storms did not feel real until they were upon us. Then, no weather report could compare to the sound of that howling wind, they way trees doubled over in the wind, or the eerie calm that came with the eye.

Such is the case when building a stepfamily. You can read the marriage manuals, attend parenting courses, and spend time with each other's kids, but nothing fully prepares you for the real day-to-day living in a stepfamily unit. You just have to do it and hang on for the ride. Take it one day at a time - with tons of prayer - and realize that storms, like Frances and Jeanne, will come your way. Remember, too, that they will pass and life will go on.

2. There is peace in the eye of the storm.

The peace that came during the eyes of Frances and Jeanne was very sweet, because it was in such obvious contrast to the whipping winds and driving rains we just experienced.

When your stepdaughter screams that you are "NOT her mother" after you ask her to clean her room, then returns an hour later expecting you to drive her to the mall to meet friends (and give her money to shop with), you may feel like you are in the middle of big storm. It won't always be so. It may take a long time, but peace will come if you remain faithful to turn the control of your stepfamily (including your screaming stepdaughter and your own emotions) over to the Lord. Storms may toss you on both sides, but you will have your "eyes" of peace. Watch for them, and revel in them.

3. In the middle of the storm, I felt the safest.

In the middle of those hurricanes, I knew that I had absolutely no control. I had to trust in the Lord to protect my family, my home, my cars, and my friends. As winds whipped and raged, I relaxed inside my house, knowing that the foundation was firm and that I had prepared the best I could. At times, the power was out, the phones down, and everything was closed. Those were two of the most restful times I've had in recent years, because I was forced to stop everything - no email, no phone calls, no errands to run. Just me, my family, and God. Wow!