Three years ago one of my favorite days of the week was Sunday. As a people person, Sundays at church were fabulous. I loved catching up with friends and learning more about God’s Word. Each week was like a family reunion without the mysterious casseroles and awkward “Who are you and how are we related?” moments.

But now I dread Sunday mornings. I have a hard time getting up (okay, I always have a hard time getting up, but it goes deeper). I get stomachaches Saturday nights, and I fight to get to church at all, much less get there on time. Why is that? Because it’s so hard!

Rachel is my beautiful, wonderful child, but her autism makes life challenging. She’s on a very specific diet and many foods are potentially harmful—including most common snack foods. She is nonverbal and doesn’t comprehend language well, so she has difficulty following directions. She needs one-on-one attention to participate in most social environments. And church, with its snack-filled, chaotic, and loud menagerie of fun, doesn’t always work. Or I should say, we don’t fit that mold.

I’d decided the best solution was to teach Rachel’s Sunday school class so the rest of my family could attend. Now I’m not so sure that was a great idea. In the last six months I’ve sat in a church service maybe three or four times, and I’m worn out. Plus, I’m carrying too much load trying to teach and maintain Rachel. I can’t do it anymore, and I know I’m not alone.

Many of my friends with special needs children have said the same things. One had to take over as nursery director and teach her son’s class just so her family could attend church. Another said when her son was younger she often got called out of church within 15 minutes. Another who goes to a church with special needs partners still has to stay with her son if the assigned aide can’t be there. It’s exhausting! Yes, the few times we’ve gotten to sit and listen to a sermon are wonderful, but not enough. Most of the time I’d rather my husband and other daughter would go alone and leave Rachel and me at home—something I never imagined saying. It’s that hard.

Church functions aren’t much easier. Babysitters are hard to come by and forget bringing the kids along, at least for us. The few times we tried that ended in disaster.

A solution? I’m not sure. I almost didn’t write this, but I want other moms to know they are not alone. Yes, life with autism or other special needs is hard, but God is with us. Furthermore, I believe He has a special place in His heart for our special kids. Don’t give up on good things like church just because they’re hard. Pray, then trust in God to work things out. He’s so big and His love is so great you’ll be amazed what He can do.

Even as I typed this, someone from my church called me to see how we can make things better for Rachel. Isn’t that awesome? So, please, never forget: God is with you. You are not alone.