For her, it wasn’t a dream really. It was more a desire. A thirst, to be precise.

Several years ago, having traveled much of the day from our North Carolina home to the wedding of our niece in Ohio, we’d finally stopped for the night. It was dinnertime, and we all looked forward to eating at the quaint restaurant we’d discovered in our downtown Columbus hotel.

Perusing the menu, our daughter Allie’s dark eyes fixed on a particular item, and she salivated. “Ooo, fresh-squeezed lemonade. Can I have this, Momma?”

“Of course, dear. Sounds refreshing.” I tousled her hair with a smile.

A few minutes later, an assistant to our server appeared, heavy tray in hand. “Let me guess,” she remarked. “This lemonade is for the young lady.” And without waiting for Allie’s response, she placed the tall glass before her, adding, “Specially squeezed, just for you.”

Allie stared at the beverage, then looked back and forth between me and her dad. Noticing her hesitancy, and fearing the consequence if she took a big swig of her lemonade, I came to her rescue. “It’s good manners to wait for everyone’s drink to be delivered, dear,” then offered a weak smile in the assistant’s direction.

Finally, all the beverages deposited, the young woman asked, “Do you want a few minutes before ordering, or would you like me to get your server so you can order now?”

It was my husband Bill’s turn to speak. “Give us several moments, please.”

She nodded, turned, and disappeared behind a door, and that’s when I focused my full attention on the glass still sitting untouched before our daughter.

“Oh my goodness.” The words waiting to erupt from my mouth came spilling out. “What are they thinking?”

Allie knew what I meant, though she didn’t fully understand. Removing the garnish from her glass, she held up the dripping flowers. “What is this?”

“It’s baby’s breath, and it’s not edible.”

“What does ‘not edible’ mean?” Allie continued.

“That means you shouldn’t eat it because it’s toxic.” I turned to Bill. “Can you believe that? They put a poisonous flower in our daughter’s drink.”

Bill, who’s more knowledgeable about most everything, will admit that flowers aren’t his specialty–especially knowing whether or not they can be eaten. So he asked, “Are you sure they’re poisonous?”

“Google it on your phone, but I’m pretty certain they are, at least in large amounts.” Turning my attention to Allie, I continued. “I know you probably wouldn’t have eaten them, but it’s just not good form to put toxic garnishes in children’s drinks, just in case.”

Our original waitress, completely unaware of any discontent, returned to the table to take our order. “Have you decided?”

Not being one who enjoys confrontation but sensing the need to say something, I cleared my throat. “Um, before we order, we’d like a new lemonade, please.” I considered my words. “I know it’s not your fault, and we hate to complain, but this one was garnished with baby’s breath, and…” I looked at Bill who still held his phone. He nodded his affirmation. “Baby’s breath is toxic.”

The waitress looked from me to the damp clump of white flowers I held up, then back to me. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, before adding, “But she wasn’t supposed to… eat it.”

Her emphasis on eat sort of bristled my skin, like I was silly for having even considered such nonsense. “Well, I understand that, dear, but she’s only nine, and it just doesn’t seem wise for someone to put something potentially harmful in a child’s drink. We’d like a fresh one, please–this time, without the garnish.”

As she walked away, I said a silent prayer–asking for forgiveness for my irritability, yes, but mostly beseeching God to protect and intervene on our behalf, fearful someone would certainly spit in our food.

I’m happy to report that the rest of the evening was uneventful, and our meals were very good. Perhaps it’s because Bill emphasized Bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies when he offered the blessing, but no one got sick, and that’s a good thing. Furthermore, this story has been retold numerous times, and it always makes us laugh–especially repeating our young server’s words, “She wasn’t supposed to… eat it.”

And I pondered this story again the other day, when my thoughtful husband brought home a bouquet of flowers, including a separate bundle of… yep, baby’s breath! As I arranged them, I smiled, recalling that dinner years ago.

Baby’s breath, those tiny white blossoms–so innocent and sweet–how ever could they be toxic? Even in floral arrangements, they’re like a garnish–adding a touch of simplicity to the fancier flowers, like roses, lilies, or sunflowers. Rarely would one see a vase filled entirely with just baby’s breath, but when a florist thoughtfully places sprigs of it throughout a bouquet, well, it adds such a nice touch.

Then, just this morning, I read the biblical account of Joseph, son of Jacob. He had a dream, but rather than wait to see what his father might say, whether or not he should share with his brothers, he boasted about it to them. And, not surprisingly, he suffered some consequences.

Mostly, he gained some enemies.

His older brothers came to hate him so much they determined to thwart his dream by doing away with Joseph. After all, he seemed toxic–a constant thorn in their flesh, what with his colorful handmade coat and all. His presence was a painful reminder that their father loved him most, and that fueled their anger–justifying their decision to throw him in a pit, sell him to traveling Ishmaelites, and then lie to Jacob. Handing him the torn up, blood-spattered coat for proof, this bereaved father was left to predict that his son had been devoured by wild animals.

If one reads on in Genesis, it’s easy to see that, just because that which they considered “toxic” was removed from their presence, the sons of Jacob didn’t live a life of purity or ease.

Take, for example, Joseph’s older brother Judah. Two of his own sons died, he impregnated his twice widowed daughter-in-law Tamar–though he mistook her to be a cult prostitute (as if that makes it better)–and he’s basically blackmailed by her, exposed for his sinful choices, before he could smell the sweet breath of his own babies–Judah’s twin sons by Tamar. (Phew!)

Meanwhile, the one who was considered the perpetrator of poison, with all his boisterous dreaming, ends up in Egypt to live for awhile in the home of Potiphar, then, unfairly, in prison, and finally, in Pharaoh’s palace–having become the highest official in the land, second only to Pharaoh himself.

And concerning the seeming toxicity which Joseph could only see in retrospect as he shared with his brothers years after they’d sold him for some shekels–who now feared that he (You know, that dreaming one!) would have them killed–he recognized God’s hand, proclaiming mercy over them with–

“… ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives'” (Genesis 50:19, 20 NIV).

So perhaps baby’s breath isn’t so bad after all. Maybe, at least as a garnish, it isn’t toxic. Its sweetness certainly brightens up many a bouquet, and its innocence… well, like its name, brings a smile.

But just remember…

You’re not supposed to eat it!

Dear Jesus, help us recognize that which is toxic in our lives, and help us know what to do about it. May our dreams be only those which are Your dreams for us first, and guide us toward achieving them–in Your perfect way, in Your perfect time. May we be patient, kind, and merciful, but help us also be courageous when we need to speak truth. Mostly, may we speak love, even to those who’ve been enemies–just like Joseph. Just like You, Jesus! Amen.

***To read the amazing story of Joseph, click Genesis 37-50.***