Fingers splayed wide, he placed both palms on the microwave door, which he used as a wall for his standing push-ups.

“Jacob, please! The handprints!” The moment the words escaped my lips, I saw this now 17-year-old as the little, sticky-fingered toddler setting his marks on any shiny surface he could find. Those handprints I’d scrub away only to find magically reappeared within seconds.

Time. Where has it gone? How does time do this? It seems to crawl when they are three. Yet once they reach 14, that crawl reaches a sprinting stride that leaves a mama breathless.

Oh, time, please do slow down.

I know I begged you for peace and quiet and grumbled through those long, slow, monotonous days. But now I’m asking you to slow your pace in our life.

Wiping noses, changing diapers, cutting grapes, kissing bruises.

Living for naptime, recharging for the dinner hour, surviving until bedtime.

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Sweet snuggles and bedtime stories, soft voices and softer hearts.

Tucking in and saying prayers.

Falling exhausted into bed only to realize I missed those sweet little voices.

Those were the days.

Glancing back at my hybrid boy/man performing push-ups against the microwave, I felt something twinge inside my chest.

These are the days, too.

Our boys were preschool- and early elementary-age when my husband turned to me and whispered, “It will never get better than this.” I knew exactly what he meant.

I am tempted to reach for the next season because it promises me a break or easier times ahead.

My husband reminded me that a new season doesn’t equal better. Just different.

On our first family vacation, an elderly woman approached me. Her eyes glistened toward my then 1- and 3-year-olds. “Enjoy every moment. It will fly by.” I decided to believe her, and that day I made a decision. I would live an intentional life with my family. I would be fully present and enjoy the journey.

I absolutely believed the time would indeed fly by despite how it felt in that season. And when I faced the days of sending my boys out into the world, I wanted to face it with as few regrets as possible. At least as far as how I spent my time with them.

Did I actually believe living an intentional life would be my solution to shielding my heart from the pain of shifting seasons? I think I did. The realization fell over me. I have invested my time well, but it still hurts. This passing of time, this one good season to the next good season, is beautifully, painfully, gloriously wild.

It’s like New Year’s Eve with its odd mix of feelings. At the same moment, you are saying goodbye to one year and hello to the next.

Yes, that is what this crossover season feels like. It’s taking me a bit by surprise.

We mamas are good givers. We give our whole hearts to these children entrusted to us. We can be good givers and terrible grievers. As I approach a new season on the horizon, I’m giving myself permission to grieve what has been a beautiful gift of time. We were created to release these God-given gifts and treasures into the world. Sometimes we overlook the need to grieve the good things in life well.

I decided I’d speak to myself like I’d speak to a dear friend. I preached to me: What a beautiful gift of time and memories you have held. Treasure them well in your heart and allow yourself to fully process the happy sadness of moving into your next season while realizing the joy and celebration of it all.

Years of handprints become heartprints.

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I’m so grateful nothing can erase the prints that have colored my heart. Sometimes those colorings drifted outside the lines creating a messy wildness. Other times the colorings appeared neater and tidier. Altogether, the heart-colored creation on this heart is one-of-a-kind. I wouldn’t trade one stroke.

A mere glancing back over the span of time, I’m overcome by the enormous handprint I see marking my entire life. The handprint of God, the giver of all good and beautiful gifts.

Renee Robinson

Renee Robinson is married to her high school sweetheart and homeschools their three teenage sons. She writes to inspire and encourage others to live with intentional purpose. www.renee-robinson.com