Reba: Grandma was the reason I was introduced to the Lord. But it wasn’t an introduction, it was just like, “This is the way of life.” Nothing pushy—never pushy, just gentle. And we would go to church with them. Her and grandpa would sing, and I’ve just always known the Lord. Thank you, Grandma.
Susie: Me too.
Alice: I think we can all say that she was such an inspiration to us.
The Faith Between Sisters: Reba McEntire, Susie McEntire-Eaton, & Alice Foran – Episode #273
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. This week we get to hear from three very special guests—they are sisters who have stuck together through the good times and the bad: country and gospel music singing sisters Reba McEntire, Susie McEntire-Eaton, and Alice Foran. These sisters look back on what it was like growing up on an 8,000-acre ranch, traveling to rodeos with their cowboy dad and their school teacher mother. And they reflect on lessons of faith learned from their grandmother, Reba Smith, plus they share family stories in a special way that only sisters can.
The McEntire Family Roots
Reba: People ask me all the time, “What’s so special about growing up in Oklahoma?” And I’d say it’s the people that were so cool. They’re down-home, and they’ll help you out any time you need help.
Well, another reason we’re lucky is that we were raised around our cousins and a tight-knit family. We would fight among ourselves, but anybody from the outside came in and they had all of us to tango with. It was Mama’s kids, Aunt Ginny’s kids, Uncle Dale’s kids. And we were raised together and very close growing up.
Susie: I can remember going over to Uncle Dale and Aunt Virginia’s house, and they had that platform rocker. And that platform rocker would not only rock, but it would go ‘round and ‘round and ‘round and ‘round. We would do that when Aunt Virginia wasn’t looking, most of the time. We would get outside in the yard, we would get down in the creek bottoms and play all day. They didn’t have to tell us to go get busy and get out of their hair. We were outside.
I remember that so much there, and at Aunt Ginny and Uncle Slim’s house—that’s Mama’s sister and brother-in-law. We just had lots of cousins to be able to play with.
Alice: Even to this day, I look at our cousins as our brothers and sisters, and we’ve lost three of them. But the ones that are still with us are just so doggone special.
Susie: Let’s talk about the house we grew up in. Mama and Daddy moved from over on the lake property because Atoka Lake came in―Oklahoma City built a lake—they came over to where the house was, where we were basically all raised, right before I was born.
Alice: In 1956 and 1957.
Susie: Describe what the house was like, Reba.
Reba: I remember it as being not finished when you came home from the hospital in November of ‘57. And I still remember the beams on the floor in y’alls bedroom, you and Pake, and there was dirt underneath it. There were three bedrooms, one living room, one little bitty bathroom for six people, six of us. We had a pond up the hill that the cattle also used, and that was our drinking water and our using water. But we were grateful to have a bathroom.
Susie: When Mama and Daddy built that house, it was a mansion compared to what they had lived in previously. Because when they first got married, they moved the hogs out of the till house to be able to live in a house. Very poor days. It was tough in those days. We had a piece of sheetrock right by the telephone.
Alice: The whole wall was sheetrock.
Susie: Yes, the whole wall was sheetrock. This became Daddy’s way of putting the phone numbers down. And so we all joined in and we just put the numbers on the wall and they would be right there. No need to get a book…
Reba: and not in alphabetical order…
Susie: …or any order at all.
Reba: And we’d walk in the house and then he’d be sitting there just looking at the wall and we’d stand there and say, “Who are you looking for?”
And we’d all say “There it is,” and we’d find it.
Alice: Back then, there weren’t any area codes, and we had a party line. Kids today don’t have a clue what a rotary phone is or a party line. My grandchildren don’t know. Pake and I would get on the party line and listen to Tommy McGeehan and Carrie, his future wife. They were sweethearts, and they would talk about all their aspirations and getting married and everything. We’d listen in and then finally, Tommy would hear us breathing or making a sound. He’d say, “Y’all get off the phone!” It was always fun.
Growing Up with Sisters
Susie: Reba and I shared a bedroom. And I’ll never forget—I don’t know that I’m any cleaner than you are, but you would not hang up your clothes. You just piled them higher, higher, higher up on the dresser.
Reba: Did we have the bunk beds then? You were on top and I was on the bottom?
Reba: And then one time you were in there with us, all three girls in one little room, and I bet our closet space wasn’t this big and the rod came down. It was all hand-me-downs anyway. But one time I came home from a basketball game or something, and you and Pake had taken all the strings out of every shoe in the house, and my old round plastic rollers—you’d taken the shoe strings through the rollers and had just gone from the curtain to the little chandelier Clark Ryan made for me and I couldn’t even walk in the room.
Susie: It was a booby trap.
Reba: It was a booby trap and I thought, They really like me. They took all that time to do that. And I just wiggled through and got in my bed. I was so thrilled.
Alice: Y’all got bored.
Susie: So we were adventurous. I mean, we were left alone quite a bit. Mama was the secretary at the school, so in the summertime, she worked. Daddy was off doing what he was doing, working on the ranch or on rodeo tours, and we were by ourselves a lot.
Alice: I remember we had the old window fan and that big old water cooler…
Susie: …in the kitchen
Alice: …and it was hot and would have to run outside and get a water hose and put water down the—what do you call those…
Susie: Those coil things.
Alice: Yeah, to have any breath of cool air. That was real living.
Reba: When you were going to college and you left Joe-Dan, your horse, there, and I would ride your horse and then I’d ride my horse and being out there and by myself, it was when I was really closest to the Lord, always outside was when I was closest.
Alice: Right, yeah.
Reba: Being outside, I just loved it. That was my church.
Susie: Growing up in southeastern Oklahoma where both of our parents were raised, I mean, that’s such a deep root into our heritage. And the ranching, the rodeo—both of you guys rodeo-ed. I didn’t—every time I got on the horse, I got hurt. So I thought I’d better do something else.
Alice: But it was usually because Reba got you hurt.
Susie: Alice, don’t lie on this show!
Learning About Faith from Our Grandmother
Susie: Where did your spirituality start? Where did you get that little kind of grain of sand put into your life? Reba, we’ll start with you. Where did you kind of get aware of who God was?
Reba: It was Grandma—Mama’s mama, the one I was named after, Reba Estelle Smith. Grandma was very spiritual. I think Grandma’s main mission was to tell those Bible stories and tell us of her love for the Lord. And people say, “How long have you known the Lord?” I can’t remember not knowing the Lord. It was from a very early age. And we went to church with them and they would pray before they went to bed at night. And that’s where we saw that.
“People say, ‘How long have you known the Lord?’ I can’t remember not knowing the Lord.” – Reba McEntire
Alice: It wasn’t just about church, either. It was her walk. She was such a dear, dear person. And to talk about her, it brings emotion, because she was so kind. And, you know, Grandpa Smith was just a toot a lot of times, but she was so nice about everything.
Reba: She was so even keel. Remember that time when we were playing Easter Egg Hunt way after Easter and we were hiding flip flops. I saw one, and it was on a bunch of boards. I went and I stuck a nail right through my foot, and I got to lay on the divan in the living room, and she poured coal oil on my wound and everybody else had to stay outside and it was hot.
Alice: I remember that well.
Reba: And she made Georgie read me the funny papers.
Susie: And speaking of hot, her house was not air-conditioned. She had to cook in that little bitty kitchen but made the best blackberry cobblers you have ever lapped a lip on.
Alice: Yes, she did.
Susie: Fresh butter, fresh milk, fresh eggs. I mean, everything that was brought into that kitchen was made by her.
Susie: And she didn’t have a life without difficulties, even in her relationships. She came from Mississippi as a young girl, and they settled in southeastern Oklahoma. Her parents were sharecroppers, and they just existed on the way of life at that time. I mean, she was born, what, 1902, maybe? Never had a formal education. I never saw her in a pair of pants. She didn’t get her driver’s license. But she influenced us.
Alice: All of us.
Susie: …who influenced others, every one of our kids has been influenced by her…
Alice: …by what she did…
Susie: …and into our grandchildren because of her. So one little seed can go so far into eternity.
Reba: You know, I’ve never thought of it that way. Just because of her.
“Every one of our kids have been influenced by her and into our grandchildren because of her. So one little seed can go so far into eternity.” – Susie McEntire-Eaton, Alice Foran, & Reba McEntire, on their grandmother, Reba Estelle Smith
A Legacy of Faith
Alice: I want to talk about Daddy’s faith. Daddy being a rodeo cowboy was rough. He was a rancher. Ranchers didn’t back then, ordinarily didn’t go to church. They didn’t talk about their spirituality or anything like that. But I really think Daddy was convicted, he knew by just nature, he’d heard enough about Jesus, that he knew what he should do. He got saved and baptized, what, in ‘80? Some time in ‘80. and he was not ashamed at all to go down in front of the church and be baptized. And I think that took a load off of his conscious.
Susie: That’s true. I remember one time he said, “Well, you get insurance for your house, you ought to get insurance for your soul.”
“I remember one time he said, ‘Well, you get insurance for your house, you ought to get insurance for your soul.’” – Susie McEntire-Eaton
Reba: I’d never heard that. That’s a good one.
Susie: He was very logical. He wasn’t really “ooey wooey” but if it needed to be done, well, why not do it? Why wouldn’t you do this? And I think that’s a really good way to think about it. I mean, Jesus provided that for us. Why don’t we accept it as a free gift? So he was very logical in that.
Alice: Y’all remember when we would go to Chockie to the church, and Pastor Edge was preaching, and Daddy would be intent. He was just listening so carefully and he’d say “Preacher, preacher…”
Susie: Right during his sermon.
Alice: Daddy had a question and he figured if he didn’t ask it right then that they might not get the answer.
Reba: Well, he might forget it.
Alice: And he would stop the sermon and say, “Yes, Clark, what do you need?”
And he said, “I don’t quite understand.”
Reba: Speaking of baptism. We got to tell about Mama’s baptism, which was late in life. She was 87, or 88. But it was a fun day, we weren’t there, but Tricia Ann, our cousin was, and said that…
Alice: …when she went down to the front of the church…
Reba: Yeah, when she was at church and they were doing altar call and Mama went down and Joey Landsdale, the preacher, said, “Well, Jackie, what can I do for you?” She said, “Well, preacher, I’m turning myself in.” And then we came in when she got baptized. That was wonderful.
Counting on Your Sisters in Times of Need
Susie: Alice, I remember when I was having trouble in my first marriage, you were working for the Department of Human Services and you afforded me a way to get out. I didn’t take it, but you were always taking care of us. For some reason, I could go to you before I could go to my mama in many instances. And I just want to tell you thanks. Thanks for trying.
And Reba, you gave me lots of opportunities on the road. I mean, I went with you when you first started. I was with you on your first bus. I went with you on those radio tours and I got to sing with you on the Opry and so many good things. Sisters are good for lots of things, and I really feel sorry for women who don’t have a sister, but God will always provide a very good friend to be with each other. And it’s a sisterhood. It’s something that’s blood. And it goes farther than blood. You can almost communicate with each other across the miles and you know what’s going on. You know, somebody needs to be called. So I just wanted to say that, how much both of you have influenced my life for the better.
“Sisters are good for lots of things, and I really feel sorry for women who don’t have a sister, but God will always provide a very good friend to be with each other. And it’s a sisterhood. It’s something that’s blood. And it goes farther than blood.” – Susie McEntire-Eaton
Reba: Right back at you.
Alice: I was always meant to be a mama. And I practiced on y’all, you know, disciplined you and took the responsibility. But I don’t know that I love my children any more than I love you two and Pake. A mama always looks at her children that they’re perfect, but understands that they’re not, you know, but we hurt when you’re hurting.
Susie: But you think we’re perfect, right?
Alice: Yes, yes.
Susie: And she’s right on that
Alice: Of course. Yes. And you know, I think Haley was born in 1986, and she was born with a multitude of disabilities and I think had I not been a mother to you guys and my own children, Vince, Garett, and Trevor and later, Haley, I don’t think that Robert and I could have done it and done as good a job as we did with her.
Susie: I know, Alice, that you having Haley was probably the greatest test of faith for you. And I know that you’ve relied on God all the way through it. It has made you stronger, right?
Alice: Yes, so absolutely, yes. There have been other trials in our life that, you know, not just Haley—Haley’s thirty-five years old now—just as healthy as a horse. We recently went through the death of our grandson, who was addicted to drugs, but God worked away in his life. Ryan was addicted at an early age to opioids. And you guys know, I’ve told you all this, about how he struggled and he fought to get clean. And that addiction is so horrible. He was a beautiful boy, he was blond-haired, blue-eyed, but he just could not get rid of those demons with the drugs and he died last October. But a month before he died, he went in front of the church and asked to rededicate his life and to be baptized. I think that has gotten us all through it to know that Ryan knew what he needed to do and would have that peace, knowing that he’s in the arms of Jesus.
Susie: Right. For sure.
Reba: Oh, my gosh. I want to say something right now. I don’t know what God’s plan was for Haley coming to y’all, but He couldn’t have sent it to two better people than you and Robert. I’ve never seen so much love for one child and still have enough for the other children in the family, nieces and nephews. Y’all are strong, the biggest hearts in the world.
Alice: Thanks. Thank you. And Robert is my rock, and he’s a Godly man and I know that God gave him to me. And just like Mark with you, and Rex with you…
Susie: It’s God that gives us what we need.
“It’s God that gives us what we need.” – Susie McEntire-Eaton
Reba: Oh, definitely. Definitely. Absolutely. I’ve waited sixty-six years for a man to pray with and to share faith and love of the Lord and to be compassionate, to have a compassionate heart. That’s very special.
Susie: I remember Grandma saying—and I have relied on this. She told me, she said, “Always tell the Lord thank you. Thank you.” And when I don’t have anything else to pray about, I just stop and say, “Thank you, God, thank you. I don’t know what’s coming next. I don’t know how I’m going to do this, but I just want to say thank you.” And that has resonated—a simple little thing that she said probably to every one of us, but it continues to resonate in our lives. There’s that ripple effect that you’re going to make, you’re going to make, I’m going to make in our kids and our grandkids.
“When I don’t have anything else to pray about, I just stop and I say, ‘Thank you, God, thank you. I don’t know what’s coming next. I don’t know how I’m going to do this, but I just want to say thank you.’” – Susie McEntire-Eaton
Reba: I think I read that in Jesus Calling the other day, that when you pray, when you give thanks, it’s the thing that goes straight up to heaven and it’s heard the loudest—the thankfulness. But the main thing that I’ve learned over these last couple of years is love. With the prejudices, with the madness over politics, and what’s going on and who’s getting more attention, who’s not getting attention, if we would just all love one another and accept the faults, love them for who they are, give them grace because they might have had a really rough day when they came in and chewed you out for something. Just back off and think, Maybe they had a rough day. I’m having a good day. Everybody should be happy like me. No, that’s not the way it works. That’s true. Cut them a little slack and just love them no matter what color or what their belief.
“If we would just all love one another and accept the faults, love them for who they are, give them grace because they might have had a real rough day.” – Reba McEntire
Susie: That’s right.
So Reba, would you read from Jesus Listens, November 27th, if you would?
I give thanks to You, for You are good; Your Love endures forever.
I want to take time to think about the many blessings You provide. Thank You, Lord, for the gift of life—for every breath You give me. I’m grateful also for everyday provisions: food and water, shelter, clothing, family and friends. But the greatest gift I’ve received from You, my Savior, is everlasting Life!
As I consider all that You have done for me, I delight in who You are—the great I Am! You are one hundred percent good. There is not even a speck of darkness in You…
Susie: Not a speck.
…the Light of the world! Moreover, Your Love is unending; it goes on and on throughout eternity.
Because I belong to You, I am never separated from Your loving Presence. I know that You are always near, so I don’t need to worry about whether or not I sense Your Presence. Instead of focusing on my feelings, help me to simply trust that You are with me—and to thank You for Your unfailing Love.
In Your blessed Name,
Susie: And Lord, I do pray for my sisters Alice and Reba and for our brother Pake, that he kind of honed us and shaped us too to be the women we are. Lord, we love You and praise You and thank You that you are so faithful to us, Lord, even though we didn’t know what this passage was going to be, You orchestrated that and you made it all flow, we love You, Father. And Lord, we just thank You for the day that we will be reunited with our mama up in heaven. And we thank you for the influence that she had on us. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Then sings My soul, my Savior, God to Thee. How great Thou art, how great, Thou art.
Then sings my soul, my Savior, God to Thee. How great Thou art, how great Thou art.
Susie: Every Thanksgiving, Mama wanted that song right there, and we’re continuing the tradition. Thank you all so much for taking this time. I love you. I love you. I love you so much.
Narrator: To find out more about what Reba, Susie, and Alice are up to, be sure to follow them on social media, and also be sure to check out Reba’s newest music project, Revised, Remixed and Revisited, now available wherever you buy music.
If you’d like to hear more stories about family connections through story and song, check out our Peace In Uncertain Times video with Ellie Holcomb over on our YouTube page.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we hear from CNN anchor Christi Paul, who opens up about an early abusive relationship in her life and how her brokenness led to her strength in Christ.
Christi Paul: I think the hardest part of being in a relationship like that is determining whether you’re going to stay or go, once you make the decision. It’s still hard. But it’s easy because you know you’re doing the right thing. So I went into that marriage a very broken person. And I came out broken, but I came out stronger because God’s grace was all around it.